Tai Chi helps heart attack patients to recover: Ancient Chinese martial art is a safe way for sufferers to improve their health, researchers claim

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The ancient martial art may provide a more enjoyable option to traditional rehab Three fifths of patients refuse rehabilitation because they think it is unpleasant But deciding against taking part in such rehabilitation programmes can be fatal Experts found the gentle movements encourage patients to continue exercising

Tai Chi helps heart attack patients to recover: Ancient Chinese martial art is a safe way for sufferers to improve their health, researchers claim

Tai CHi for Cardiac Rehabilitation

Tai Chi should be recommended to heart attack patients to help them recover, new research suggests. 

The ancient Chinese martial art may provide a more enjoyable option to traditional rehab, which three fifths refuse to take part in because they deem it unpleasant. 

But deciding against taking part in rehabilitation can be fatal, increasing the risk of dying from a subsequent heart attack by 18 per cent.

Researchers found the slow and gentle movements involved in Tai Chi are safe and encourage patients to continue exercising. 

Used for more than 1,000 years, it could help to form part of the essential care that all heart attack patients require, Brown University experts believe.

Starting slowly and simply 

Dr Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, lead author, said: 'We thought that tai chi might be a good option for these people because you can start very slowly and simply.

'As their confidence increases, the pace and movements can be modified to increase intensity. Tai Chi exercise can reach low-to-moderate intensity levels.

The emphasis on breathing and relaxation can also help with stress reduction and psychological distress.'

Cardiac rehabilitation involves a gentle reintroduction to physical activity, including aerobic exercise classes, and also guidance on diet.

The process, which can take months, also advises patients on how to live with heart disease and reduce their risk of repeat attacks.

All heart patients should be offered rehabilitation care in the aftermath of an attack within 33 days, official NHS guidelines state.


The Brown University study adds to a growing body of evidence that highlights the health benefits of Tai Chi. 

Researchers in July concluded that taking up the martial art could prevent falls that lead to fractures and broken bones in the elderly.

It slashed their risk of having a potentially deadly tumble by 43 per cent, compared to other interventions, Spanish experts found.

And a team at Massachusetts General Hospital were able to uncover Tai Chi's effects on fighting depression in May. 

They found attending classes for the Chinese martial art for 12 weeks significantly reduced symptoms of the blues.

How was the study carried out?

Some 29 heart attack victims were involved in the latest study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Every participant reported that they enjoyed taking part in Tai Chi, with two thirds attending all of the classes available.

They were split into two groups and either attended 24 classes over three months or 52 classes over a period of two years.  Minor muscular pain was the only notable side effect.

But it won't be a replacement 

But the researchers warned that Tai Chi wouldn't replace conventional rehabilitation, as it didn't improve the patients' aerobic fitness.

Professor Salmoirago-Blotcher said: 'On its own, Tai Chi wouldn't obviously replace other components of traditional cardiac rehabilitation.

'If proven effective in larger studies, it might be possible to offer it as an exercise option within a rehab centre as a bridge to more strenuous exercise.'

The findings come after a damning report in January revealed that tens of thousands of British heart attack patients are being abandoned to cope without rehab.

Tens of thousands of British cardiac patients are abandoned to cope without the essential care they need after a heart attack, a major audit reveals.

Some 66,000 of 132,000 eligible patients are missing out on cardiac rehabilitation each year, the National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation found.