Exploring Tai Chi Exercise and Mind-Body Breathing in Patients with COPD in a Randomized Controlled Feasibility Trial

COPD. 2021 Jun;18(3):288-298. doi: 10.1080/15412555.2021.1928037. Epub 2021 Jun 9.


In this pilot feasibility randomized controlled trial, participants with moderate to severe COPD were randomized to a 12-week tai chi or MBB intervention. Participants were assessed at baseline, 12 weeks, and 24 weeks. Feasibility, as assessed by intervention adherence, was the primary outcome. We also estimated preliminary between-group differences in COPD symptoms and health-related quality of life, cognitive-emotional function, and functional status across three timepoints: baseline, 12, and 24 weeks. A total of 92 participants were randomized 2:1 to tai chi (n = 61) or MBB (n = 31). The overall group adherence in the first 12 weeks was 62% in tai chi and 75% in MBB. From baseline to 12 weeks, tai chi demonstrated greater improvements in depressive symptoms (Cohen's d effect size (ES) = -.53; adj mean diff = -2.31 [-5.7, 1.07]), 6-minute walk test distance (ES = .47; adj mean diff = 62.04 [2.85, 121.22]), social support (ES = .36; adj mean diff = .19 [-0.11, 0.49]) and chair stand (ES = .44; adj mean diff = .91 [-0.05, 1.86]). Only improvements in social support were maintained at 24-week follow-up. Tai chi and MBB are feasible for individuals with COPD. Preliminary effects suggest that while our mindful breathing intervention may not be sufficient to impact outcomes, tai chi may result in short-term benefits in mood, social support and functional capacity. More work is needed to better understand mindful breathing for COPD and to examine methods for maintaining improvements from tai chi over time.Supplemental data for this article is available online at https://doi.org/10.1080/15412555.2021.1928037 .

Keywords: Tai chi; feasibility study; mind-body breathing; randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / therapy
  • Quality of Life
  • Tai Ji*