Does tai chi help reduce the risk of heart disease?
Like other forms of physical activity, tai chi may be an effective method for helping to reduce the risk of heart disease. The mind-body practice, characterized by gentle movement and deep breathing, offers a nontraditional form of exercise that may appeal particularly to elderly or frail individuals and those who “get bored at the gym,” said Alona D. Angosta, who wrote a review of the research on tai chi.
Although the number of tai chi trials is limited, several have shown that tai chi can reduce certain cardiovascular risk factors, including reducing levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides, increasing levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and slowing heart rate.
There is also quite a bit of evidence to suggest the practice can improve blood pressure. Harvard doctors who conducted a ://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18401235">systematic review of the medical literature in 2008 found that 22 of 26 studies reported reductions in blood pressure among participants who practiced tai chi.
One 1996 trial that randomly assigned 126 heart attack survivors to either a tai chi, an aerobic exercise or a non-exercise support group for eight weeks found improvements in both diastolic and systolic blood pressure (the top and bottom numbers) only in the tai chi group. Participants were also more likely to stick with the tai chi program over time.
Researchers say that more studies would be helpful. Many of the trials that have been done are small, prescribe different regimens and different types of tai chi, and follow people for varying amounts of time. Those limitations make it hard to draw firm conclusions about the effects.