Connect with others who understand.

sign up log in
About MyCOPDTeam

COPD Patients May Breathe Easier With Tai Chi

Posted on October 09, 2018

Pulmonary rehabilitation requires trained staff and specialized facilities. The new study found that tai chi could be a low-cost, easily accessed alternative for some patients.


By Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, April 9, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- People struggling with COPD might find some relief in an ancient art.



The centuries-old practice of tai chi appears to boost the exercise capabilities and the quality of life of those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a study from Chinese and British researchers suggests.

COPD is a chronic, debilitating and largely incurable form of progressive lung disease affecting more than 11 million Americans, according to the American Lung Association. A combination of bronchitis and emphysema, it's the third biggest killer in the United States.

Many COPD patients require hands-on pulmonary rehabilitation.

"The function of breathing requires participation of lungs, upper-body muscle strength, and guidance from the brain," explained an expert unconnected to the study, Dr. Irene Galperin. She directs the Pleural Center at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

"When lungs are weakened by COPD, we rely on the other two factors to compensate. This is why pulmonary rehabilitation -- which entails endurance and strength training -- improves the lives of patients with COPD," Galperin said.

However, pulmonary rehabilitation requires trained staff and specialized facilities. The new study found that tai chi could be a low-cost, easily accessed alternative for some patients.

In the study, researchers tracked outcomes for 120 COPD patients in China who had begun daily
medication treatment. The patients were also randomly assigned to practice tai chi, or receive pulmonary rehabilitation.

After 12 weeks, the patients in the tai chi group had greater improvements in their COPD symptoms, as well as in a six-minute walk test, according to the study published online April 3 in the journal Chest.

"Physical activity is key to reducing symptoms in COPD," study lead researcher Michael Polkey explained in a journal news release.

"We do recommend pulmonary rehabilitation, but our study shows that tai chi is a viable alternative when there is no local [such] service" available, said Polkey, who works at the Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit at The Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, in London.

Dr. Alan Mensch is a pulmonologist and senior vice-president of medical affairs at Plainview and Syosset Hospitals in Long Island, N.Y. He noted that while COPD is progressive and incurable, "the treatment goal for COPD patients is to increase their level of function while decreasing their symptoms."

Mensch said that pulmonary rehabilitation is ideal, however, many patients find it tough to stick to, so alternatives such as tai chi are welcome.

Noting that the tai chi study showed "significant improvement" in COPD symptoms, Mensch believes the practice may be "equally as effective as pulmonary rehabilitation in improving patients' physical sense of well-being, as well as functional ability."

And, he added that "tai chi does not require a visit to a gym or training center and requires no equipment, making it more attractive for patients to continue to practice following formal training."

Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved.

Here are some conversations from MyCOPDTeam:

I've been doing pulmonary rehab exercise class but note little overall health or breathing improvement. Has anyone else experienced this?

"If I haven't been going to Rehab all these years I wouldn't be here right now."

"I also went to Walmart and picked up a couple 'Senior' videos for Tai Chi and a dancing exercise video for when I don't feel like leaving the house. It is my opinion the best thing you can do for your lungs is exercise!!"


Has tai chi helped you better manage your COPD?
Share in the comments below or directly on MyCOPDTeam.

Recent articles

Emphysema is a respiratory illness that is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary...

Emphysema Symptoms To Watch For: Could You Have Alpha-1?

Emphysema is a respiratory illness that is a form of chronic obstructive pulmonary...
If you’re living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you’re already aware of the...

COPD Awareness: How To Get Involved

If you’re living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you’re already aware of the...
Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, sometimes called genetic COPD, is an inherited genetic disorder...

Screening for Genetic COPD (Alpha-1)

Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, sometimes called genetic COPD, is an inherited genetic disorder...
To determine how you can reduce your medical expenses, MyCOPDTeam sat down with Susan Null of...

How To Reduce Medical Bills: Top Financial Expert Shares 10 Tips

To determine how you can reduce your medical expenses, MyCOPDTeam sat down with Susan Null of...
Because the physical impact of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be all-consuming,...

How COPD Can Affect Your Mental Health

Because the physical impact of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can be all-consuming,...
Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, known as alpha-1 or AATD, is a hereditary condition caused by a...

What Is Genetic COPD (Alpha-1)?

Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency, known as alpha-1 or AATD, is a hereditary condition caused by a...
MyCOPDTeam created a series of free pulmonary rehabilitation videos with respiratory therapist...

4 in 5 MyCOPDTeam Members Say Pulmonary Rehab Exercises Gave Them Confidence To Leave the House

MyCOPDTeam created a series of free pulmonary rehabilitation videos with respiratory therapist...
Right now our society is facing a rapidly spreading disease, the novel coronavirus, also known...

COPD Flares vs. COVID-19 Symptoms: Knowing the Difference

Right now our society is facing a rapidly spreading disease, the novel coronavirus, also known...
The term emphysema is often used interchangeably with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease...

Emphysema — An Overview

The term emphysema is often used interchangeably with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease...
Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two conditions found in people with chronic obstructive...

Chronic Bronchitis vs. Emphysema: What's the Difference?

Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two conditions found in people with chronic obstructive...
MyCOPDTeam My COPD Team

Thank you for signing up.

close