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Harvard Provides Qualitative Insights of Tai Chi for Heart Attack Survivors

April 23, 2019 - Cardiac rehabilitation (CR) programs are standard of care for patients following a coronary event. While such exercise-based secondary prevention program do offer benefits, they are used by less than 30% of eligible patients and attrition within these programs is high. Harvard Medical School teamed up with New England School of Acupuncture and Brown University Warren Alpert Medical School in a project to perform qualitative assessment of a pilot program considering Tai Chi as an alternative to CR. They hypothesized that Tai Chi may overcome several key barriers to CR.

A semi-structured focus group agenda was used to assess three key domains of feasibility: (1) patients' experiences, (2) reasons/barriers for not having attended CR and (3) any improvements in physical activity and other secondary outcomes (quality of life, weight, sleep). A thematic analysis was used to better understand the key concepts.

This high-risk group of patients reported that they enjoyed Tai Chi exercise and felt confident and safe doing it. Tai Chi practice was reported to support other types of physical activity allowing for a generalization of positive effects.

This analysis is consistent with published reports of Tai Chi practice improving mood and psychological well-being. Qualitative methods allowed us to find emergent experiential reports of behavior change factors found in established behavior change theories. The findings are published by BMJ supportive & palliative care in April 2019.

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