Background: Preliminary evidence suggests that meditative exercise may have benefits for patients with chronic systolic heart failure (HF); this has not been rigorously tested in a large clinical sample. We sought to investigate whether tai chi, as an adjunct to standard care, improves functional capacity and quality of life in patients with HF.
Methods: A single-blind, multisite, parallel-group, randomized controlled trial evaluated 100 outpatients with systolic HF (New York Heart Association class I-III, left ventricular ejection fraction ≤40%) who were recruited between May 1, 2005, and September 30, 2008. A group-based 12-week tai chi exercise program (n = 50) or time-matched education (n = 50, control group) was conducted. Outcome measures included exercise capacity (6- minute walk test and peak oxygen uptake) and disease-specific quality of life (Minnesota Living With Heart Failure Questionnaire).
Results: Mean (SD) age of patients was 67 (11) years; baseline values were left ventricular ejection fraction, 29% (8%) and peak oxygen uptake, 13.5 mL/kg/min; the median New York Heart Association class of HF was class II. At completion of the study, there were no significant differences in change in 6-minute walk distance and peak oxygen uptake (median change [first quartile, third quartile], 35 [-2, 51] vs 2 [-7, 54] meters, P = .95; and 1.1 [-1.1, 1.5] vs -0.5 [-1.2, 1.8] mL/kg/min, P = .81) when comparing tai chi and control groups; however, patients in the tai chi group had greater improvements in quality of life (Minnesota Living With Heart Failure Questionnaire, -19 [-23, -3] vs 1 [-16, 3], P = .02). Improvements with tai chi were also seen in exercise self-efficacy (Cardiac Exercise Self-efficacy Instrument, 0.1 [0.1, 0.6] vs -0.3 [-0.5, 0.2], P < .001) and mood (Profile of Mood States total mood disturbance, -6 [-17, 1] vs -1 [-13, 10], P = .01).
Conclusion: Tai chi exercise may improve quality of life, mood, and exercise self-efficacy in patients with HF. Trial Registration clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00110227.