The effect of tai chi on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a pilot randomised study of lung function, exercise capacity and diaphragm strength

Heart Lung Circ. 2014 Apr;23(4):347-52. doi: 10.1016/j.hlc.2013.10.057. Epub 2013 Oct 17.


Background: Although the benefits of exercise on the health of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have been widely reported, the effect of Tai Chi as an alternative exercise has not been thoroughly evaluated in patients with COPD. This study reported a randomised controlled trial, which investigated the effects of Tai Chi on lung function, exercise capacity, and diaphragm strength in patients with COPD.

Trial design: Single blind randomised controlled study.

Setting: Department of Respiratory Medicine, Xiangya Hospital, Central South University.

Methods: Forty patients with COPD were randomised into either a control group or Tai Chi intervention group. Participants in the control group received only routine care, while participants in the Tai Chi group received routine care and completed a six-month Tai Chi exercise program.

Outcomes: Lung function parameters, blood gas parameters, 6-min walking distance (6MWD), and diaphragm strength parameters.

Results: Lung function parameters (FEV1: 1.43 ± 0.08 and FEV1 (%) predicted: 47.6 ± 4.76), 6MWD (476 ± 15) and diaphragm strength parameters (TwPes: 1.17 ± 0.07, TwPga: -1.12 ± 0.06, and TwPdi: 1.81 ± 0.09) were found to be significantly increased in participants who successfully completed the six-month Tai Chi program compared to participants in the control group who only received routine care (p<0.05). These parameters were also found to be significantly increased in participants who completed the Tai Chi exercise program compared to the baseline (p<0.05). In contrast, no significant differences in PaO2 and PaCO2 were observed in participants before or after completing a Tai Chi program or between Tai Chi group and control group (p>0.05).

Conclusions: Tai Chi enhances lung function, exercise capacity, and diaphragm strength. However, this is only preliminary research data and a larger trial is needed for more detailed results.

Keywords: 6MWD; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; Diaphragm strength; Lung function; Tai Chi.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diaphragm / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Tai Ji