Tai Chi and COPD
Last updated: June 2023
We have all heard of the benefits of mind-body exercise for people with chronic conditions. If yoga feels too active for you and meditation not active enough, tai chi might be the right fit for you. Plus, studies show that it can have benefits for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).1-3
What is tai chi?
Tai chi (pronounced “tie chee”) is an ancient Chinese martial art. It involves slow, flowing movements linked with breathing. Tai chi exercises can be done standing or sitting. No special equipment is needed – all you need is yourself, loose clothing, and an open mind about trying something new.1,2
While the movements are gentle and low-impact, tai chi is powerful. It can help strengthen the body and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It is also simply a fun, relaxing activity that can be practiced alone or with a group.2,3
For nearly 70 years, researchers have studied how tai chi can help people with medical conditions like heart disease, osteoarthritis, and Parkinson’s disease. Studies show that tai chi can measurably improve the quality of life for people with COPD. It might even be an effective part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program.1-3
How can tai chi help with COPD?
Because tai chi has been shown to help many people with certain chronic conditions, a group of doctors wanted to see if it could improve the quality of life for people with COPD. They created a study to track 120 people with COPD. Half of the people were put on a traditional pulmonary rehabilitation program, and half were enrolled in a tai chi class. Both groups took the same type of medicine for COPD.1
After 3 months, the group of people who did tai chi reported better scores in a questionnaire about their respiratory health. They also performed better during a test that involved walking for 6 minutes. The scientists concluded that tai chi can be an effective pulmonary rehabilitation method. They also pointed out that tai chi is a low-cost treatment, which means that many people can access it.1
It is important to keep in mind that the people in this study practiced tai chi for 5 hours a week. They also continued to take their COPD drugs. Tai chi is not a substitute for COPD drugs or a pulmonary rehabilitation program, but it can be a helpful part of your routine.1-3
How can I start doing tai chi?
If you are interested in trying tai chi, talk to your doctor. They will let you know if it is a good exercise for you and your COPD. They may even be able to recommend a class.3
Tai chi has become very popular, so you may be able to search online for options in your area. If you belong to a health club, community center, or senior citizen organization, they may offer tai chi classes. Your local hospital or healthcare center may also offer tai chi programs.2
You can also try tai chi at home by finding a free video online. Try searching for “beginner tai chi” or “tai chi basics”. There are also plenty of DVD options that you can buy or order.2
Where do you stand with your COPD?