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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 August, 2005, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Heart patients' martial art help
Tai Chi class for heart failure patients
The Tai Chi classes are being run at a sports centre
Heart patients in East Sussex are using the ancient martial art of Tai Chi to aid their recovery process.

The British Heart Foundation approved the scheme for people from the Hastings area who had suffered heart failure.

Groups of patients have been attending free courses, run over a number of weeks by a cardiac improvement manager and a Tai Chi instructor.

A 2004 study in the American Journal of Medicine found Tai Chi was a gentler exercise which led to better movement.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) said in October that Tai Chi could be adopted into future heart failure treatment programmes.

The Hastings scheme was proposed by Dr Hugh McIntyre, a lead consultant in heart failure at the Conquest Hospital in St Leonards-on-Sea.

Keeping active

Dr McIntyre said: "These patients need to keep moving because sometimes a symptom of heart failure is a build up of fluid in the body because the heart isn't working properly.

"This results in breathlessness, but it has been shown that gentle exercise can alleviate such symptoms."

Tai Chi incorporates slow flowing movements which are said to improve health.

It allows patients to keep active, but only by doing the amount of exercise they can handle.

Stuart Innes, who leads the classes, said: "It's relaxing. It teaches you correct body posture and it helps you to walk and be stable when you walk."

It is hoped that the pilot classes can be extended to Bexhill and Eastbourne in the future.

Heart failure happens when the heart gradually loses the ability to pump blood around the body efficiently.


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