In a clinical trial conducted in China, people with coronary heart disease (CHD) experienced a greater reduction in depression and anxiety after going through a Tai Chi-based rehabilitation program compared with those who went through traditional cardiac rehab. The researchers published details on the study in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine.

Past studies have shown that people with heart disease have higher rates of anxiety and depression than healthy adults. In patients with CHD, anxiety and depression exacerbate heart problems, leading to arrythmia and death, the researchers state.

While traditional cardiac rehabilitation offers numerous benefits, including lower risk for complications and mood improvements, the researchers wanted to compare its results with a Tai Chi-specific protocol. The researchers recruited 30 total participants from 3 cardiac rehab facilities in China.


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The participants ranged from age 30 to 80 and had either stable angina symptoms and new onset of heart failure or, left ventricular dysfunction or New York Heart Association class Ι or II classification symptoms. The study team randomly assigned patients to either Tai Chi or traditional cardiac rehab. The program included an 11-month supervised program and a 3-month follow up, with outcomes measured at baseline and at 1, 2, and 11 months of intervention.

After completing the intervention, the anxiety level of the Tai Chi group was significantly reduced (P <.01) compared with the traditional group (P >.05). Depression levels were reduced in both groups. However, the depression scores of the Tai Chi group showed a more notable downward trend than the traditional group.

The researchers could not monitor physical activity the participants may have engaged in. outside of rehab The study also had a high attrition rate, most likely due to the long intervention period.

“Tai Chi cardiac rehabilitation program developed in China may effectively relieve anxiety and depression in patients with CHD,” the researchers concluded. “The effect was apparently better than a routine exercise program and could be promoted for cardiac rehabilitation.”

Reference

Lyu S, Wang H, Wei Q, et al. Effects of tai chi cardiac rehabilitation program on anxiety and depression in patients with coronary heart disease: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Eur J Integr Med. Published online June 25, 2022, doi:10.1016/j.eujim.2022.102147

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor