Tai Chi and Pulmonary Rehabilitation Compared for Treatment-Naive Patients With COPD: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Chest. 2018 May;153(5):1116-1124. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2018.01.053. Epub 2018 Apr 3.


Background: In COPD, functional status is improved by pulmonary rehabilitation (PR) but requires specific facilities. Tai Chi, which combines psychological treatment and physical exercise and requires no special equipment, is widely practiced in China and is becoming increasingly popular in the rest of the world. We hypothesized that Tai Chi is equivalent (ie, difference less than ±4 St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire [SGRQ] points) to PR.

Methods: A total of 120 patients (mean FEV1, 1.11 ± 0.42 L; 43.6% predicted) bronchodilator-naive patients were studied. Two weeks after starting indacaterol 150 μg once daily, they randomly received either standard PR thrice weekly or group Tai Chi five times weekly, for 12 weeks. The primary end point was change in SGRQ prior to and following the exercise intervention; measurements were also made 12 weeks after the end of the intervention.

Results: The between-group difference for SGRQ at the end of the exercise interventions was -0.48 (95% CI PR vs Tai Chi, -3.6 to 2.6; P = .76), excluding a difference exceeding the minimal clinically important difference. Twelve weeks later, the between-group difference for SGRQ was 4.5 (95% CI, 1.9 to 7.0; P < .001), favoring Tai Chi. Similar trends were observed for 6-min walk distance; no change in FEV1 was observed.

Conclusions: Tai Chi is equivalent to PR for improving SGRQ in COPD. Twelve weeks after exercise cessation, a clinically significant difference in SGRQ emerged favoring Tai Chi. Tai Chi is an appropriate substitute for PR.

Trial registry: ClinicalTrials.gov; No.: NCT02665130; URL: www.clinicaltrials.gov.

Keywords: COPD; Tai Chi; indacaterol; pulmonary rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Strength
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / rehabilitation*
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tai Ji*
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02665130