November 21, 2016 - A recent study by Virginia Commonwealth University examined the effects of Tai Chi on bio-behavioral factors associated with cardiovascular disease risk in women. Their randomized trial, reported by American journal of health promotion in November, 2016, used a wait-list control group, pretest-posttest design. Data were collected immediately before, immediately after, and 2 months following the intervention.
Women aged 35 to 50 years at increased risk for cardiovascular disease were recruited from the communities in central Virginia. The 8-week program was built on prior work and designed to impact bio-behavioral factors associated with cardiovascular disease risk in women. Biological measures included fasting glucose, insulin, and lipids as well as C-reactive protein and cytokines. Behavioral measures included fatigue, perceived stress, depressive symptoms, social support, mindfulness, self-compassion, and spiritual thoughts and behaviors. A mixed effects linear model was used to test for differences between groups across time.
In 63 women, Tai Chi was shown to decrease fatigue. Consistent with the study model and intervention design, significant changes observed 2 months post intervention indicated that Tai Chi may help down-regulate pro-inflammatory cytokines associated with underlying cardiovascular disease risk, including interferon gamma, tumor necrosis factor, and may increase mindfulness, spiritual thoughts and behaviors, and self-compassion.
This study contributes important insights into the potential benefits and mechanisms of Tai Chi and, with further research, may ultimately lead to effective strategies for reducing cardiovascular disease risk in women earlier in the cardiovascular disease trajectory.