Background: Alternative strategies for exercises that provide both training and relaxation benefits are optimal for persons with very low functional capacities who also are at high risk for complications. T'ai Chi C'hih, a modified form of traditional T'ai Chi, is a series of slow balanced movements and breathing promoted to increase energy levels and induce relaxation.
Objectives: To estimate the energy costs and cardiovascular effects of T'ai Chi C'hih. Measured energy costs of specific activities can assist with safe exercise prescription for individuals with very low energy reserves.
Methods: A convenience sample (n = 26) of healthy adults participated in this study, which involved completion of surveys to estimate functional capacity and exercise participation, training in a select series of nine T'ai Chi C'hih movements, and oxygen consumption testing while movements are performed. Movements involving front to back and lateral moves of the lower extremity, full shoulder range of motion of upper extremity, and deep forced inhalation and stepped exhalations were performed at slow to fast cadences in sitting and standing positions. The Human Activity Profile was used to estimate lifestyle energy consumption. Exercise participation was quantified as Kcal/Kg(1) expended per week.
Results: Metabolic equivalents (METs) for sitting T'ai Chi C'hih movements were estimated to be 1.5 +/- 0.17 and 2.3 +/- 0.34 for slow standing, and 2.6 +/- 0.47 for fast standing. Mean maximum heart rates ranged from 43% to 49% of predicted maximum heart rates. Mean increases in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures over resting were 8%. Mean METs of breathing exercises ranged from 3 to 3.6. There were no differences in responses to the movements by gender or experience with T'ai Chi exercise.
Conclusion: The movements used to perform T'ai Chi C'hih require energy expenditure comparable with that for activities of daily living and for low level exercises currently recommended for persons with low exercise tolerance. Therefore, T'ai Chi C'hih may be an alternative approach to health promotion in many populations with chronic disease.