For COPD, Tai Chi is a Viable Alternative Treatment

Tai Chi may be a viable alternative to pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a new study.

Tai Chi could be especially helpful in this patient population because, unlike PR, it requires no special equipment, is more accessible, and may be associated with lower costs, according to researchers.

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The authors of the study arrived at their conclusion following a study of 120 bronchodilator-naïve patients with COPD and a mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) of 1.11.

Patients initiated once-daily 150 μg indacaterol and, 2 weeks later, were randomly assigned to receive either standard PR 3 times per week or group Tai Chi 5 times per week for 12 weeks.

The researchers specifically measured for changes in St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) points prior to, immediately after, and 12 weeks after the end of each intervention.

Findings revealed that, when both interventions ended, the between-group difference for SGRQ was -0.48, excluding a difference exceeding the minimal clinically important difference. However, 12 weeks later, the between-group difference for SGRQ was calculated as 4.5, favoring Tai Chi over PR.

The researchers observed similar trends for 6-min walking distance, but no changes in FEV1.

“Tai Chi is equivalent to PR for improving SGRQ in COPD,” the researchers concluded. “Twelve weeks after exercise cessation, a clinically significant difference in SGRQ emerged favoring Tai Chi. Tai Chi is an appropriate substitute for PR.”

—Christina Vogt


Polkey MI, Qiu ZH, Zhou L, et al. Tai chi and pulmonary rehabilitation compared for treatment-naïve patients with COPD [Published online April 3, 2018]. CHEST J.