Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate the influence of Tai Chi on cardiorespiratory fitness in elderly people using meta-analysis.
Methods: This study used seven electronic databases and data retrieved from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) investigating the role of Tai Chi on cardiorespiratory fitness in the elderly. All these 24 RCTs were screened and selected from 7 literature databases. The Stata 11.2 software (StataCorp, USA) was used for the meta-analysis, subgroup analysis, and bias test, while the Cochrane Collaboration’s tool was used for the assessment of the risk of bias (RoB). 4 researchers independently participated in sample selection, data extraction, and RoB assessment.
Results: Following the inclusion criteria, 24 eligible studies were included in our analysis. The meta-analysis indicated that Tai Chi practice significantly increased the maximum rate of oxygen consumption (VO2 max) (weighted mean difference (WMD) = 3.76, 95% CI: 1.25 to 6.26, P < 0.1), leading to an overall reduction in the heart rate (WMD = -1.84, 95% CI: -2.04 to -1.63, P ≤ 0.001) and an increase in the O2 pulse (WMD = 0.94, 95% CI: 0.60 to 1.28, P ≤ 0.001) in individuals who practiced Tai Chi regularly compared with those who did not.
The subgroup analysis suggested that overall in those who practiced Tai Chi, males (WMD = 1.48, 95% CI: 0.85 to 2.12, P ≤ 0.001) had higher O2 pulse than females (WMD = 0.73, 95% CI: 0.33 to 1.12, P ≤ 0.001). The subgroup analysis also showed an increase in the vital capacity (WMD = 316.05, 95% CI: 239.74 to 392.35, P ≤ 0.001) in individuals practicing Tai Chi.
When the samples were further stratified by Tai Chi practicing time, the subgroup analysis suggested that individuals practicing Tai Chi over a period of 24 weeks showed no significant difference in vital capacity (WMD = 82.95, 95% CI: -98.34 to 264.23, P=0.370), while those practicing Tai Chi over a period of 48 weeks showed a significant increase (WMD = 416.62, 95% CI: 280.68 to 552.56, P ≤ 0.001).
Furthermore, the subgroup analysis demonstrated that the increase in vital capacity is significantly correlated with the Tai Chi practicing time (WMD = 344.97, 95% CI: 227.88 to 442.06, P ≤ 0.001).
Conclusion: Regular Tai Chi practice could improve the cardiorespiratory fitness in the elderly, as indicated by significant improvement in indicators including VO2 max, O2 pulse, vital capacity, and heart rate. However, gender and practice time might influence the overall beneficial outcomes.