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Here's How Practicing Tai Chi Can Help the Heart

Here's How Practicing Tai Chi Can Help the Heart
From TIME - October 11, 2017

For people who have a heart attack, chances are high that if they dont do much to change their lifestyle and health habits, they will have another onepossibly even a fatal onein a few years.

But the dietary and exercise changes that doctors recommend are often too intimidating and frightening for patients. Most heart rehabilitation programs include regular treadmill sessions several times a week at a hospital or heart facility, but nearly two-thirds of heart attack patients dont participate in these programs. For people who are overweight or obese and are not in the habit of exercising, such regimens are off-putting and stressful, since they are afraid that the exercise will trigger another heart attack.

Dr. Elena Salmoriago-Blotcher, assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at Brown Universitys Warren Alpert School of Medicine & Public Health, wanted to find an alternative for people like this. In a small new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, she and her colleagues found that tai chi might be a useful way to introduce reluctant people to exercise.

In the study, 29 men and women who had recently had a heart attack were randomly assigned to two tai chi groups. One practiced tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks by attending sessions at the hospital, while the other group did it three times a week for 24 weeks. All of the volunteers were also given DVDs to help them continue practicing tai chi at home.

After three months, Salmoriago-Blotcher found that the people in the group doing tai chi more frequently were more physically active than those doing less of the exercise. After six months, the differences were more pronounced. Not only were the people in the more intensive group practicing tai chi more often, but they were also doing more physical activity outside of their sessions, such as riding their bikes and climbing up and down stairs in their homes that they were afraid to use before.

MORE: Why Tai Chi Is As Good For You As CrossFit

People like it, and they came," says Salmoriago-Blotcher. "We retained pretty much everybody for the length of the study. And there is a preliminary indication that the longer program may improve physical activity. We changed behavior.

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