Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death globally
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) (World Health Organization, 2017), cardiovascular disease was the cause of approximately 17.7 million deaths in 2015 and accounted for 31% of all global deaths. In addition to causing millions of deaths, cardiovascular diseases affect how people function physically and their psychological and social well-being; together contributing to a lower overall quality of life.
What did the study involve?
Regular exercise plays a crucial role in reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors like high blood pressure, excess weight, physical inactivity and diabetes). This study compared the effects of 3 months of regular Tai Chi practice with brisk walking in reducing some of these risk factors among adults who suffered from hypertension.
246 adults (average age 64 and with an age range from 30 to 91 years) with hypertension and at least two but not more than three cardiovascular disease risk factors (diabetes, dyslipidaemia, overweight, physical inactivity and smoking) were randomly assigned to one of three groups - Tai Chi, brisk walking or a group (the “control” group)which was asked to make no change to their usual routines.
The participants in the Tai Chi group attended a 24-form Yang Style Tai Chi class for 60 minutes, 2 times a week for 3 months. Sessions were conducted by a qualified and experienced Tai Chi Master who assessed their skills during the class, correcting any incorrect postures or movements. The participants were also advised to practice Tai Chi at home for 30 minutes per day on at least 5 days each week.
The participants in the brisk walking group were instructed to walk at between 5 and 6 km/h for 30 minutes a day on at least 5 days per week.
Daily home-based practice was encouraged for another 6 months.
The main outcome was blood pressure since high blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for cardiovascular disease. A range of other outcomes were also explored including blood glucose levels and various qualify of life and stress indicators.
Over a 9-month follow-up period (the 3 months of the study plus 6 months of home-based practice), blood pressure reduced in the Tai Chi group, but not in the brisk walking and control groups. Both the Tai Chi and brisk walking groups had positive effects on blood glucose, though the Tai Chi group achieved greater improvements.
Although all three groups showed some improvement in perceived stress and quality of life over time, only the Tai Chi group exhibited significantly lower perceived stress and greater improvements in quality of life than the brisk walking and control groups.
The authors conclude that, based on their study, Tai Chi is better than brisk walking in reducing several cardiovascular disease risk factors and improving psychological and social well-being, and can be recommended as a viable exercise for building a healthy life free of cardiovascular disease.
Chan AWK, Chair SY, Lee DTF, Leung DYP, Sit JWH, Ho Yu C, Taylor-Piliae RE, Tai Chi Exercise is More Effective than Brisk Walking in Reducing Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors among Adults with Hypertension: A Randomised Controlled Trial, International Journal of Nursing Studies (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2018.08.009
World Health Organization. Cardiovascular Diseases, Updated 2017. Available at: http://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cardiovascular-diseases- (cvds). (Accessed 6 Jun 2018).