Tai Chi Moves Improve Moods, Fight Depression In Elderly


Tai chi gentle movements improve physical and mental well-being: Image Credit: iStockphoto/Suprijono Suharjoto via sciencedaily.comTai chi gentle movements improve physical and mental well-being: Image Credit: iStockphoto/Suprijono Suharjoto via sciencedaily.com The 2,000 year-old Chinese art of Tai chi chuan, or simply Tai chi, is classified in China as an internal martial art, a physical art that brings strength and calm to the mind as well as body.  The physical postures of Tai chi relieve stress on the joints and improve physical fitness, and the postures have been found to provide gentle exercise for the elderly.

Now a team of researchers at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) have, for the first time, scientifically demonstrated the benefits of Tai chi in the management of late-life depression.

Depression is, unfortunately, common among the elderly, with 2 million persons over 65 suffering from it, including 50 percent of those who live in nursing homes - not surprisingly. Suicide rates are also much higher among the elderly in the U.S. than the national rates. 

UCLA's  Late-Life Depression, Stress and Wellness Research Program investigated the effects of weekly Tai chi classes compared to weekly health education classes for patients over the age of 60, diagnosed with depression.  The population of 112 adults were treated with the anti-depressant drug for 4 weeks.  From among the participants, 73 who showed only partial improvement were randomly assigned to either two hours per week of Tai chi or two hour health education classes.

After four months, the 73 subjects were re-evaluated for depression, anxiety, resilience, health-related quality of life, cognition, and immune system inflammation. On the depression test, 94 percent of persons in the Tai chi group scored less than 10 on the depression test, on which a score of 10 is evaluation as depression, and 65 percent showed remission, based on a score of less than 6.  

In comparison, those who received health education training did not fare badly, but less well than the Tai chi group, with 77 percent achieving depression scores of 10 or less, and 51 percent achieving remission.

"Depression can lead to serious consequences, including greater morbidity, disability, mortality and increased cost of care,"  said Dr. Helen Lavretsky, a UCLA professor-in-residence of psychiatry and first author of the research paper. "This study shows that adding a mind-body exercise like Tai chi that is widely available in the community can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults, who may also have other, co-existing medical conditions, or cognitive impairment.

"With Tai chi," she said, "we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications."

The full study, Complementary Use of Tai Chi Chih Augments Escitalopram Treatment of Geriatric Depression is published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2011.

Source: Science Daily

Editor's Note: An easy way to learn some Tai Chi is to watch a video. This Tai Chi Basics dowloadable video has gotten some good reviews on Amazon. Or you can get a well rated DVD, Tai Chi for Beginners.

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