Purpose: To conduct a systematic review of the literature evaluating tai chi exercise as an intervention for patients with cardiovascular disease (CVD) or with CVD risk factors (CVDRF).
Methods: We searched (1) MEDLINE, CAB Alt HealthWatch, BIOSIS previews, Science Citation Index, EMBASE, and Social Science Citation Index from inception through October 2007; (2) Chinese Medical Database, China Hospital Knowledge, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, and China Traditional Chinese Medicine Database from inception through June 2005; and (3) the medical libraries of Beijing and Nanjing Universities. Clinical studies published in English and Chinese including participants with established CVD or CVDRF were included. Data were extracted in a standardized manner; 2 independent investigators assessed methodological quality, including the Jadad score for randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
Results: Twenty-nine studies met inclusion criteria: 9 RCTs, 14 nonrandomized studies, and 6 observational trials. Three studies examined subjects with coronary heart disease, 5 in subjects with heart failure, and 10 in heterogeneous populations that included those with CVD. Eleven studies examined subjects with CVDRF (hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose metabolism). Study duration ranged from 8 weeks to 3 years. Most studies included fewer than 100 subjects (range, 5-207). Six of 9 RCTs were of adequate quality (Jadad >or= 3). Most studies reported improvements with tai chi, including blood pressure reductions and increases in exercise capacity. No adverse effects were reported.
Conclusion: Preliminary evidence suggests that tai chi exercise may be a beneficial adjunctive therapy for some patients with CVD and CVDRF. Further research is needed.