Tai chi exercise for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a pilot study.

Author: Yeh GY, Roberts DH, Wayne PM, Davis RB, Quilty MT, Phillips RS.
Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Osher Research Center, Harvard Medical School, 401 Park Drive, Suite 22A, Boston MA 02215. gyeh@hms.harvard.edu.
Conference/Journal: Respir Care
Date published: 2010 Nov
Other: Volume ID: 55 , Issue ID: 11 , Pages: 1475-82 , Word Count: 250

OBJECTIVE: To determine the feasibility of a randomized controlled trial of the effect of a tai chi program on quality of life and exercise capacity in patients with COPD.

METHODS: We randomized 10 patients with moderate to severe COPD to 12 weeks of tai chi plus usual care (n = 5) or usual care alone (n = 5). The tai chi training consisted of a 1-hour class, twice weekly, that emphasized gentle movement, relaxation, meditation, and breathing techniques. Exploratory outcomes included disease-specific symptoms and quality-of-life, exercise capacity, pulmonary function tests, mood, and self-efficacy. We also conducted qualitative interviews to capture patient narratives regarding their experience with tai chi.

RESULTS: The patients were willing to be randomized. Among 4 of the 5 patients in the intervention group, adherence to the study protocol was excellent. The cohort's baseline mean ± SD age, percent-of-predicted FEV(1), and ratio of FEV(1) to forced vital capacity were 66 ± 6 y, 50 ± 12%, and 0.63 ± 0.14, respectively. At 12 weeks there was significant improvement in Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire score among the tai chi participants (1.4 ± 1.1), compared to the usual-care group (-0.1 ± 0.4) (P = .03). There were nonsignificant trends toward improvement in 6-min walk distance (55 ± 47 vs -13 ± 64 m, P = .09), Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (-9.0 ± 9.1 vs -2.8 ± 4.3, P = .20), and University of California, San Diego Shortness of Breath score (-7.8 ± 3.5 vs -1.2 ± 11, P = .40). There were no significant changes in either group's peak oxygen uptake.

CONCLUSIONS: A randomized controlled trial of tai chi is feasible in patients with moderate to severe COPD. Tai chi exercise as an adjunct to standard care warrants further investigation. (ClinicalTrials.gov registration CT01007903).