Complexity-Based Measures of Heart Rate Dynamics in Older Adults Following Long- and Short-Term Tai Chi Training: Cross-sectional and Randomized Trial Studies

Sci Rep. 2019 May 16;9(1):7500. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-43602-y.


Measures characterizing the complexity of heart rate (HR) dynamics have been informative in predicting age- and disease-related decline in cardiovascular health, but few studies have evaluated whether mind-body exercise can impact HR complexity. This study evaluated the effects of long-term Tai Chi (TC) practice on the complexity of HR dynamics using an observational comparison of TC experts and age- and gender-matched TC-naïve individuals. Shorter-term effects of TC were assessed by randomly assigning TC-naïve participants to either TC group to receive six months of TC training or to a waitlist control group. 23 TC experts (age = 63.3 ± 8.0 y; 24.6 ± 12.0 y TC experience) and 52 TC-naïve (age = 64.3 ± 7.7 y) were enrolled. In cross-sectional analyses, TC experts had a higher overall complexity index (CI, p = 0.004) and higher entropy at multiple individual time scales (p < 0.05); these findings persisted in models accounting for age, gender, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity levels. Longitudinal changes in complexity index did not differ significantly following random assignment to six months of TC vs. a waitlist control; however, within the TC group, complexity at select time scales showed statistically non-significant trends toward increases. Our study supports that longer-term TC mind-body training may be associated with increased complexity of HR dynamics.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Female
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Fitness
  • Sex Factors
  • Systems Analysis
  • Tai Ji / methods*