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Novel Study of Tai Chi by VA and Harvard for Long-term Benefits for COPD Patients
September 20, 2015 -
Persons with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have reduced exercise capacity and levels of physical activity. Supervised, facility-based pulmonary rehabilitation programs improve exercise capacity and reduce dyspnea, but novel long-term strategies are needed to maintain the benefits gained.

Mind-body modalities such as Tai Chi which combine aerobic activity, coordination of breathing, and cognitive techniques that alleviate the physical inactivity, dyspnea, and anxiety and depression that are the hallmarks of COPD are promising strategies.

Dr. Marilyn Moy from the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA), Dr. Peter Wayne from Harvard Medical School and several other researchers from Harvard or Boston University School of Medicine designed a randomized controlled study to examine whether Tai Chi will maintain exercise capacity in persons with COPD who have recently completed a supervised pulmonary rehabilitation program, compared to standard care.

The primary outcome is 6-min walk test distance at 6months. Secondary outcomes include health-related quality of life, dyspnea, mood, occurrence of acute exacerbations, engagement in physical activity, exercise self-efficacy, and exercise adherence. Simultaneously, they are conducting a pilot study of group walking. They will enroll 90 persons who will be randomized to one of 3 arms in a 2:2:1 ratio: Tai Chi, standard care, or group-based walking.

The Long-term Exercise After Pulmonary Rehabilitation (LEAP) study is a novel and clinically relevant trial. The researchers will enroll a well-characterized cohort of persons with COPD and will comprehensively assess physiological and psychosocial outcomes. Results of this study will provide the evidence base for persons with COPD to engage in Tai Chi as a low-cost, long-term modality to sustain physical activity in persons who have completed a standard short-term pulmonary rehabilitation program.


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