Tai chi, taught either in face-to-face home sessions or using internet-based video calls, improved ease of breathing and posture in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients who participated in a trial. Findings also showed that patients felt calmer and less stressed, which likely contributed to the ease of breathing.
The study, “Assessing The Benefits of Tai Chi in People With CF and The Feasibility Of Delivering Tai Chi Over The Internet (Skype),” was presented today at the 30th Annual North American Cystic Fibrosis Conference (NACFC) Oct. 27-29 in Orlando, Florida.
Since CF patients are always at risk of catching an infection from other people, group training is not an option for most patients.
Susan Madge, PhD, a registered nurse at Royal Brompton Hospital in England, designed a study to assess whether patients with cystic fibrosis would benefit from home-based tai chi training, delivered either as face-to-face sessions or over the internet.
Tai chi is an ancient Chinese martial art which uses controlled, gentle and flowing movements to aid posture, strength, and well-being.
The study recruited 50 participants who ranged in age from 6.1 to 51.5 years who were randomized to one of the two groups. Of them, 40 completed the study, 23 receiving face-to-face training and 17 the video-call training. The course included eight lessons covering eight forms of tai chi taught over a period of three months.
Researchers allowed patients to bring along a friend or family member for the training. Each session, as well as the entire study, concluded with an interview conducted by a member of the research team who wasn’t involved in the training. Not all participants provided information about each outcome.
Among the participants, 58 percent said their breathing had improved after the course. The largest effect on breathing was seen in the patients who received face-to-face training, where 70 percent said their breathing had improved. In the internet-based group, only 30 percent said their breathing was better.
When participants practiced tai chi before airway clearance, 35 percent of the face-to-face participants, and 59 percent of the patients receiving the internet-based intervention, reported they had an increased sputum production. However, only 18 participants reported on sputum production: eight in the face-to-face group and 10 in the internet-based group.
Of the 11 patients having a teacher at home, 48 percent reported improvement, compared to 41 percent of the patients in the internet group.
Among 34 patients, 85 percent said they felt less stressed when doing tai chi. This was reported by 96 percent of those who had a trainer at home, while the number was 71 percent in the internet group.
Only half the group completed the final telephone interview, 11 of whom were in the face-to-face group. The response to the tai chi training was positive in both groups of patients, who stated they enjoyed their respective training methods.
Patients particularly mentioned that the training forms were convenient for the family with no need to travel and reduced risk of infection. Patients also said they did not have to go through the embarrassment of disrupting a class by coughing.
Comments concerning symptoms underscored that patients were able to take bigger breaths, to breath better at night, and to use their new skills to relax in stressful situations.
“We have shown that teaching [tai chi face-to-face or internet-based] in the home environment is feasible. Most participants also took the option of having the lessons with a friend or family member,” the team wrote in their NACFC abstract. “Classes were reported as popular and achievable. Patients reported benefits in breathing, sputum expectoration, being calmer and less stressed.”
As internet-based interventions are both safe and economic, researchers suggest that group sessions over the internet should be the next logical step toward financially sound and effective therapies for cystic fibrosis patients.