People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) -- a leading cause of death that makes it difficult to breathe -- could benefit from a centuries-old exercise, a small new study shows.
The research, published in the European Respiratory Journal, shows that participating in Tai Chi seems to improve the exercise capability of people with the lung disease.
"With increasing numbers of people being diagnosed with COPD, it is important to provide different options for exercise that can be tailored to suit each individual," study researcher Regina Wai Man Leung said in a statement. "The results from this small sample provide compelling evidence that Tai Chi is an effective training program for patients with COPD, and could be considered as an alternative to the usual exercise training programmes that are available in pulmonary rehabilitation."
Researchers from the University of Sydney and the Concord Repatriation General Hospital found that people with COPD who practiced Sun-style Tai Chi over a 12-week period were able to walk longer, and experienced a higher quality of life, compared with people who didn't do Tai Chi and only received standard care.
The study included 42 people with the condition, half of whom were assigned to the Tai Chi group, and half who were assigned to receive standard care.
Some people with COPD may have problems exercising because of breathlessness, according to the UK's National Health Service. However, it's important for people with COPD to be physically active, as it decreases symptom severity and could actually help to improve breathing.
The NHS explained:
Research shows that pulmonary rehabilitation improves exercise tolerance, breathlessness and health-related quality of life. It results in people seeing doctors less often and spending less time in hospital.
WebMD points out that people with COPD who exercise can experience positive health benefits ranging from improved use of oxygen, to a stronger heart, to having more energy.
Along with pulmonary rehabilitation, other treatments for COPD include medications, oxygen therapy, surgery to remove lung tissue that has been damaged, or a lung transplant, according to the Mayo Clinic. And, of course, it's extremely important to stop smoking.