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Healthy Heart and Cardiac Rehabilitation with Taoist Tai Chi® arts

If you have been diagnosed with heart disease or have had recent cardiac surgery, you may be feeling weak, anxious, perhaps even depressed. Certainly cardiac challenges can deeply affect your enjoyment of life.

Fortunately, research and anecdotal evidence show that tai chi helps people improve their heart health, better manage heart disease, recover from cardiac surgery and live fuller lives. With Taoist Tai Chi® practice many people have found they increase energy, reduce stress and anxiety and dramatically improve their mood. As well, the physical movements improve cardiovascular and muscular strength and circulation, reducing the risk of developing heart problems and minimizing problems that may occur. Training in these arts gives people a way to maintain healthy heart function.

People practising Taoist Tai Chi® arts also find they have better balance and flexibility, and a feeling of lightness and well-being.

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Stories of Recovering from Cardiac Surgery

In the first video a woman talks about how Taoist Tai Chi® arts gave her the courage to go through with surgery and how grateful she is. Before the surgery she used what little energy she had to do her Taoist Tai Chi® practice. The surgery went exceptionally well and she was up on her feet walking further and out of the hospital quicker than other people.

In the second video a woman discusses how she used Taoist Tai Chi® arts to help her recover from surgery. Taoist Tai Chi® practice gives her energy and the gentle movement significantly helped in healing scar tissue after the splitting of her breastbone.

Finally, a man describes how Taoist Tai Chi® arts keep the chest open which aided in his recovery from double bypass heart surgery. He had no scar tissue pain and felt resilient because of his practice.


Research: Heart Health, Cardiac Rehabilitation and Tai Chi

Good evidence for the benefits of Tai Chi for cardiac rehabilitation.
  • In a review of the literature, researchers found that practicing Tai Chi had consistently beneficial outcomes for cardiac rehabilitation. They found that women with coronary heart disease and seniors may be particularly helped by Tai Chi, as well as those who are unable to attend formal rehabilitation. 
  • There is excellent evidence that Tai Chi improves aerobic capacity and balance in individuals with and without cardiac issues, making it a safe and effective exercise intervention for cardiac patients.

Huston P. and McFarlane, B. (2016). Health benefits of Tai Chi: What is the evidence? Canadian Family Physician, 62(11), 881-890.

Tai Chi improves aerobic endurance and psychosocial well-being among coronary heart disease patients.
  • When compared with both active and inactive control groups, Tai Chi practice groups showed a significantly lower level of anxiety, depression1,2, and psychological distress2. . Similarly, they had significantly higher measures of quality of life on general, physical, and mental scales when compared with non-active control groups2.
  • Tai Chi practice groups also demonstrated significant improvements in aerobic endurance1. The authors conclude that Tai Chi is a safe, non-pharmacological, and cost-effective intervention in cardiac rehabilitation1 and the facilitation of psychological well-being in individuals with cardiovascular disease2

1Liu, T., Chan, AW., Liu, YH., and Taylor-Pillae, R.E. (2018). Effects of Tai Chi-based cardiac rehabilitation on aerobic endurance, psychosocial well-being, and cardiovascular risk reduction among patients with coronary heart disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 17(4), 368-383.

2Taylor-Piliae, R.E. and Finley, B.A. (2020). Tai Chi exercise for psychological well-being among adults with cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, June.

Significant benefits of Tai Chi for common cardiovascular risk factors.
  • The authors1 found that regular Tai Chi practice had beneficial effects on a number of cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, dyslipidemia, poor exercise capacity, endothelial dysfunction, and depression.
  • Tai Chi is safe and effective intervention for individuals with various cardiac issues and may be used as an adjunct treatment in rehabilitation therapies1,2.
  • More research is expected to emerge as researchers investigate the effectiveness of Tai Chi more fully1,2.

1Lan, C., Chen, SY., Wong, M-K., and Lai, JS. (2013). Tai chi chuan exercise for patients with cardiovascular disease. Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine, 2013: 983208.

2Nery, RM., Zanini, M., de Lima, JB., et al (2015). Tai Chi Chuan improves functional capacity after myocardial infarction: A randomized clinical trial. American Heart Journal 169, 854–860.

What are practitioners recovering from cardiac challenges saying about Taoist Tai Chi® arts?

As a heart transplant recipient, I am keenly aware of how important it is to manage stress, both physical and emotional. When I experience stress, I literally feel the muscles in my neck and shoulders tense up, and I feel that my heart beats faster and my blood pressure seems to creep up. Taoist Tai Chi® practice has helped me very much in managing my stress. After a long week at work, I attend my Taoist Tai Chi® arts classes. The gentle movements and the focus needed to practise are meditative. I feel my muscles relax and my heart rate calm down. I feel at peace after each class.

– Carrie, Vancouver, Canada

Western medicine helped a lot after my heart attack 10 years ago, but Taoist Tai Chi® practice made, and continues to make, a huge contribution. One of the cardiologists at St. Paul’s Hospital was pleased that I was doing Tai Chi and ordered me to “do Tai Chi every day”. One of his colleagues observed that I’d regained my strength faster than anyone else who had come through the hospital’s Health Heart Program. I’m in my 70s now and I’m noticing that I’m increasingly more flexible than many people my age. I have better balance and stronger legs than most, and I’m a stronger walker, thanks to Taoist Tai Chi® arts.

– Bill, Vancouver, Canada

How does Taoist Tai Chi® practice help?

Taoist Tai Chi® arts involve a full range of motion with deep stretching and continuous turning of the spine. They exercise the whole physiology including muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems, as well as tendons, joints, connective tissue and organs.

This whole body approach has a profound effect on our health, increasing strength, flexibility and resilience, whatever our condition.

Taoist Tai Chi® arts are also a form of moving meditation that has a deep effect on the brain, calming and clearing the mind.

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