News Lung

Professor Michael Polkey, consultant physician, and Bhavin Mehta, physiotherapist, have travelled to China to assist in setting up a new study to compare pulmonary rehabilitation with Tai Chi in helping to improve the quality of life for patients with lung disease.

Both Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals run highly successful pulmonary rehabilitation programmes for patients with respiratory conditions. Research has shown it to reduce breathlessness and improve fitness.

Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese form of exercise, originally developed as a martial art, which combines deep breathing with slow and gentle movements. It is now practised worldwide as a low-impact exercise.

The Chinese study is coordinated at the key state laboratory in Guangzhou, China, and involves 120 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a term used to describe a number of respiratory conditions, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The study should be completed by summer 2015, with results expected to be published in 2016.

Bhavin Mehta and Professor Mike Polkey visit China
Physiotherapist, Bhavin Mehta (second from left), and consultant physician Professor Mike Polkey (fourth from left) with the key state laboratory team in Guangzhou, China.


Commenting on the visit, Bhavin said: “The team in Guangzhou recently purchased new equipment, such as treadmills and bikes, and we worked together to develop exercises to increase the patient’s aerobic fitness and reduce breathlessness. We will visit again in the next few months to see how they are getting on with the study.”

The randomised control trial will see half the participants take part in a simple exercise programme, while the other half practises Tai Chi.

Professor Polkey said: “We were surprised to find that a large number of patients in China with COPD go undiagnosed or untreated and currently, neither pulmonary rehabilitation nor Tai Chi is used to treat it. Although pulmonary rehabilitation has proven benefits, the study may show Tai Chi to be just as effective, and if so, potentially a more accepted form of treatment to develop in the country.”

Professor Polkey will return to China at the end of the study to help with collating the results.

This study follows previous work in China in 2012, where Professor Polkey observed initial research into the benefits of Tai Chi for patients with COPD.


Professor Michael Polkey

Consultant respiratory physician