Tai Chi for heart attack survivors: qualitative insights

BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2020 Dec;10(4):e44. doi: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2018-001685. Epub 2019 Apr 4.


Objectives: Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programmes are standard of care for patients following a coronary event. While such exercise-based secondary prevention programme do offer benefits, they are used by less than 30% of eligible patients and attrition within these programmes is high. This project is a nested qualitative assessment of a pilot programme considering Tai Chi (TC) as an alternative to CR. We hypothesised that TC may overcome several key barriers to CR.

Methods: A semistructured focus group agenda was used to assess three key domains of feasibility: (1) patients' experiences, (2) reasons/barriers for not having attended CR and (3) any improvements in physical activity and other secondary outcomes (quality of life, weight, sleep). A thematic analysis was used to better understand the key concepts.

Results: This high-risk group of patients reported that they enjoyed TC exercise, and felt confident and safe doing it. TC practice was reported to support other types of physical activity allowing for a generalisation of positive effects.

Discussion: This analysis is consistent with published reports of TC practice improving mood and psychological well-being. Qualitative methods allowed us to find emergent experiential reports of behaviour change factors found in established behaviour change theories.

Keywords: cardiac rehabilitation; integrative medicine; rehabilitation.