Improve the Physical and Mental Health of Patients with COPD with Tai Chi

Improve the Physical and Mental Health of Patients with COPD with Tai Chi


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


“The gentle movements of Sun-style tai chi (SSTC) can improve the lives and boost the exercise endurance of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.” – Matt McMillen


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) are progressive lung diseases that obstruct airflow. The two main types of COPD are chronic bronchitis and emphysema. COPD is very serious being the third leading cause of death in the United States, over 140,000 deaths per year and the number of people dying from COPD is growing. More than 11 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, but an estimated 24 million may have the disease without even knowing it. COPD causes serious long-term disability and early death.


There is no cure for COPD. Treatments include lifestyle changes, medicine, bronchodilators, steroids, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, and surgery. They all attempt to relieve symptoms, slow the progress of the disease, improve exercise tolerance, prevent and treat complications, and improve overall health. Gentle mind-body exercise such as Yoga, Tai Chi and Qigong practices could improve COPD symptoms. Yoga has been shown to improve exercise tolerance and overall health and includes breathing exercises. Indeed, it has been shown that yoga practice improves the mental and physical health of patients with COPD. Mindful movement practices such Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient Chinese practices involving mindfulness and gentle movements. They are easy to learn, safe, and gentle. So, it may be appropriate for patients with COPD who lack the ability to engage in strenuous exercises to engage in these gentle mind-body practices.


In today’s Research News article “Effects of Tai Chi training on the physical and mental health status in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Guo and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research studies on the effectiveness of Tai Chi practices for the treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD).


They found 16 published research studies that report that Tai Chi practice results in improvements in lung function including forced volume capacity, forced expiratory volume in 1 s, and degree of lung function recovery. It also increased exercise ability as measured by the distance walked in 6 minutes, improved mood by decreasing anxiety and depression, and improved the patient’s quality of life.


The results are striking and important. Tai Chi practice improves the lung function, exercise capacity, mood, and quality of life in patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD). It is safe and effective mindfulness practice. It is appropriate for all ages including the elderly 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. Hence, Tai Chi practice would appear to be an excellent practice to be added to routine treatment of COPD.


So, improve the physical and mental health of patients with COPD with Tai Chi.


We conclude that tai chi is equivalent to [pulmonary rehabilitation] and may confer more sustained benefit.” – Yuan-Ming Luo


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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


Study Summary


Guo, C., Xiang, G., Xie, L., Liu, Z., Zhang, X., Wu, Q., Li, S., & Wu, Y. (2020). Effects of Tai Chi training on the physical and mental health status in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of thoracic disease, 12(3), 504–521.




Tai Chi is a systematic whole body movement developed in ancient China. It plays an increasingly important role in the field of pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Our review aimed to explore the impact of Tai Chi on the physical and mental health of patients with COPD.


We searched several English and Chinese databases and used the combination of subject words and free words to search for available literature from the establishment of the library until August 28, 2018. Two researchers screened studies and collected the data independently. The study inclusion criteria included: (I) patients diagnosed with COPD; (II) Tai Chi or Tai Chi Qigong as an intervention in addition to routine treatment; (III) routine treatment with or without exercises as control group. The primary outcomes were lung function, exercise capacity and health status; (IV) randomized controlled trials.


Sixteen articles were included from 2009 to 2018 (n=1,096). The average time duration of Tai Chi program was 53.4 minutes each session, 4.13 sessions a week for a total of 4.13 months. Comparing with control group, Tai Chi group improved some lung function (forced volume capacity: mean difference =0.12, 95% CI: 0.03–0.21), (forced expiratory volume in 1s: mean difference =0.15, 95% CI: 0.08–0.21), enhanced 6-minute walking distance score (mean difference =30.78, 95% CI: 15.15–46.42), decreased COPD Assessment Test score (mean difference =−5.00, 95% CI: −7.51 to −2.50), decreased St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire score (mean difference =−8.66, 95% CI: −14.60 to −2.72), enhanced Chronic Respiratory Disease Questionnaire score (mean difference =2.16, 95% CI: 1.49–2.83), decreased Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale score(anxiety: mean difference =−1.04, 95% CI: −1.58 to −0.51; depression: mean difference =−1.25, 95% CI: −1.77 to −0.73). Comparing with exercise group, Tai Chi group statistically enhanced 6-minute walking distance score (mean difference =7.77, 95% CI: 2.63–12.91).


Tai Chi may represent an appropriate alternative or complement to standard rehabilitation programs. However, whether Tai Chi is better than pulmonary rehabilitation exercise has not been determined.


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