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Tai Chi Chuan modulates heart rate variability during abdominal breathing in elderly adults

Gao-Xia Wei, You-Fa Li, Xiao-Lin Yue, Xiao Ma, Yu-Kai Chang, Long-Yan Yi, Jing-Cheng Li, Xi-Nian Zuo
PsyCh Journal 2016, 5 (1): 69-77
26377754
Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) practice is currently intentionally applied in clinical populations, especially those with cardiovascular diseases because of its potential benefits on the autonomic nervous system. The long-term effect of TCC practice on heart rate variability (HRV) remains largely unknown. In this study, we recruited 23 TCC practitioners whose experience averaged approximately 21 years and 19 controls matched by age, sex and education to examine the effect of TCC practice on the autonomic nervous system during a resting state and during an abdominal breathing state. HRV was measured by traditional electrocardiogram (ECG) recording. The results showed that the low frequency, total power frequency, and normalized low frequency components and the low-frequency/high-frequency ratio were significantly higher, whereas the normalized high frequency was significantly lower in the TCC practitioners relative to controls during the abdominal breathing state. However, we did not detect any significant difference in the HRV measures during the resting state between the two groups. Additionally, TCC experience did not correlate with HRV components either in the abdominal state or the resting state in the TCC group. Considering all of these findings, we suggest that TCC improves vagal activity and the balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity during the relaxation state. This study also provides direct physiological evidence for the role of TCC practice in relaxation.

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