Improve Cardiopulmonary Health Over the Long Haul in Obese Elderly with Tai Chi

Improve Cardiopulmonary Health Over the Long Haul in Obese Elderly with Tai Chi


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Research has found that seniors who regularly practice tai chi are steadier on their feet, less likely to suffer high blood pressure, and physically stronger.  Tai chi has been known to improve hand/eye coordination, increase circulation, and can even promote a better night’s sleep.” – Chris Corregall


Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and diabetes. Overweight and abdominal obesity are associated with high blood pressure, insulin resistance and elevation of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides. It is highly associated with pulmonary problems and type-2 diabetes. Obesity incidence has been rising rapidly and it currently affects over a third of U.S. adults. The simplest treatment is simply exercise and weight loss. Also, mindfulness techniques have been shown to be effective in treating Metabolic Syndrome.


Obviously, there is a need for effective treatments to prevent or treat the health consequences of obesity. But, despite copious research and a myriad of dietary and exercise programs, there still is no safe and effective treatment. Tai Chi practice is both an exercise and a mindfulness practice. It has been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune systemreduce inflammation, and improve cardiovascular function. Tai Chi training has also been shown to improve lung function. These findings are encouraging. But little is known about the ability of Tai Chi practice to improve cardiopulmonary function over the long-term.


In today’s Research News article “Tai Chi can prevent cardiovascular disease and improve cardiopulmonary function of adults with obesity aged 50 years and older: A long-term follow-up study.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Sun and colleagues recruited healthy obese adults over 50 years of age (average 66 years) and provided them with a health education training. In addition, half the participants received training in Tai Chi 3 times per week for 30-40 minutes. They were measured before and after training and then every 3 to 6 months over 6 years for blood pressure, body size, cardiac function, and lung function.


They found that in comparison to baseline and the health education only group, the Tai Chi group had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure, waist and hip circumference, weight, and body mass index, and significant improvements in cardiac and lung function that were maintained for 6 years. In addition, the Tai Chi  group had lower incidences of health complications, lower mortality, and lower rates of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.


These results are exciting and remarkable. It is exceedingly rare to have such long-term follow-up of the effectiveness of an intervention. The results demonstrate that Tai Chi practice can be safely maintained over very long periods of time and produce sustained benefits for the health of the elderly. It’s important to note that Tai Chi is gentle and safe, appropriate for all ages, and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion. It is inexpensive to administer, can be performed in groups or alone, at home or in a facility, and can be quickly learned. In addition, it can be practiced in social groups. This can make it fun, improving the likelihood of long-term engagement in the practice.


So, improve cardiopulmonary health over the long haul in obese elderly with Tai Chi.


Practising the ancient martial art of Tai Chi is so beneficial to elderly people’s health that it should be “the preferred mode of training”” – The Telegraph


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Sun, L., Zhuang, L. P., Li, X. Z., Zheng, J., & Wu, W. F. (2019). Tai Chi can prevent cardiovascular disease and improve cardiopulmonary function of adults with obesity aged 50 years and older: A long-term follow-up study. Medicine, 98(42), e17509. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000017509



To research the possible role of Tai Chi in preventing cardiovascular disease and improving cardiopulmonary function in adults with obesity aged 50 years and older.

Between 2007 and 2012, 120 adults with obesity, aged 50 years and older, were divided into a Tai Chi group and a control group, with 60 participants in each group. The 2 groups were evaluated for weight, waist circumference, hip circumference, blood pressure (BP), body mass index, and incidence of chronic disease during follow-up monitoring.

Two- and 6-year follow-up showed that the average BP in the Tai Chi group along with either the systolic or diastolic pressure decreased significantly compared to those in the control group (P < .001). Waist and hip circumference, weight, and body mass index in the Tai Chi group were significantly reduced compared to those in the control group (P < .001). The cardiopulmonary function of the control group and the Tai Chi group changed, with the cardiac index significantly higher in the Tai Chi group than in the control group (P < .05). The Tai Chi group had significantly higher levels of lung function, including vital capacity, maximal oxygen uptake, and total expiratory time, than the control group. The total incidence of complications and mortality in the Tai Chi group were much lower than those in the control group (P < .001). The incidence of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease in the Tai Chi group (16.67%) was lower than that in the control group (38.33%).

Tai Chi is not only a suitable exercise for elderly people with obesity, but it can also help to regulate BP, improve heart and lung function in these individuals, as well as reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and other chronic diseases, helping to improve their quality of life.


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