JAMA Logo Historically, chronic heart failure patients are considered too frail for performing exercise and probably recommended to avoid physical activity. Well, it now appears that meditative exercise is significantly beneficial for such patients. According to a recent study, tai chi exercise improves quality of life, mood and exercise self-efficacy in people diagnosed with chronic heart failure.

During the study, scientists examined 100 outpatients with systolic heart failure who were recruited between May 1, 2005 and September 30, 2008. Then 50 patients were randomized to a 12-week tai chi-based exercise intervention group, while 50 others were subjected to a time-matched education group. The tai chi intervention group contained one-hour group classes that were held twice weekly for 12 weeks. Also the education sessions were conducted twice weekly for the same duration as the tai chi lessons. The education sessions were led by a nurse practitioner.

Investigators comment, “In conclusion, tai chi exercise, a multi-component mind-body training modality that is safe and has good rates of adherence, may provide value in improving daily exercise, quality of life, self-efficacy and mood in frail, deconditioned patients with systolic heart failure. A more restricted focus on traditional measured exercise capacity may underestimate the potential benefits of integrated interventions such as tai chi.”

Gloria Y. Yeh, M.D., M.P.H., of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues mention that overall both groups were similar in demographics, clinical classification of heart disease severity, and rates of co-morbidities. On completion of the study, no remarkable differences of change in six-minute walk distance and peak oxygen uptake was registered in both the groups. However, those belonging to the tai chi group reported greater improvements in quality of life than the ones attending the education sessions. Apart from this, the tai chi group also displayed betterment in exercise self-efficacy with increased daily activity, and related feelings of well-being than the education group.

The study was published in the April 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.