Training in ChiRunning to reduce blood pressure: a randomized controlled pilot study

Publication University of California, San Francisco

Kelly McDermott,  Deepak Kumar, Veronica Goldman, Haojun Feng, Wolf Mehling, Judith T. Moskowitz, Richard B. Souza and Frederick M. Hecht.

BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015 Oct 15;15:368



People with prehypertension (120–130/80–90 mmHg) are at increased risk of progressing to hypertension. Recommendations for prehypertension include engaging in regular physical activity. We aimed to assess feasibility and acceptability and collect preliminary outcome data on ChiRunning for people with elevated blood pressure. ChiRunning is a commercially available running program based on the mindful movements of Tai Chi, which is aimed at decreasing injury by both increasing body awareness and modifying running form.


We enrolled adults with elevated systolic (130–150 mmHg) or diastolic (80–100 mmHg) blood pressure in a 12-week pilot trial. Participants were randomized 2:1:1 to 8 weeks of: 1) intervention—a trainer-led ChiRunning group (n = 10); 2) active control—a trainer-led running group (n = 6); or 3) educational control—a self-directed running group (n = 6) and followed for 4 more weeks. The active control and educational control groups were combined for analysis.


This study was feasible, meeting recruitment, retention and adherence goals, and acceptable to participants. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure did not change significantly over the study for either the ChiRunning or control groups. Changes in BMI over time were significantly different from zero in the ChiRunning group (p  = 0.04) but not in the control group (slope for ChiRunning −0.05 [−0.1 to −0.002] vs. control −0.01 [−0.06 to 0.04], between slope difference, p = 0.22). Self-reported running-related injury (i.e. discomfort leading to a decrease in running) was similar between groups (ChiRunning, 4 [1.2 to 8.4] vs. control, 3 [0.7 to 7.1] injuries per 100 h of running, p = 0.72) although self-reported running-related discomfort (i.e. discomfort that does not lead to changes in running) trended higher in the ChiRunning group (ChiRunning, 10 [5.4 to 16.8] vs. control, 4 [1.5 to 9] reports of discomfort per 100 h of running, p = 0.06).


ChiRunning appears to be a feasible and acceptable exercise program for people with elevated blood pressure. We did not find that ChiRunning had a significant impact on blood pressure or self reported injury, but did see a positive change in BMI over time. ChiRunning warrants further investigation in a larger trial.

Trial registration Identifier: NCT01587183