(NaturalNews) Tai chi has existed for centuries and its numerous benefits to well-being have been recognized for just as long. Research continues to uncover the role of tai chi in addressing modern disorders. A study recently published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry found that weekly tai chi exercises are beneficial to elderly patients being treated for major depression. According to Dr. Helen Lavretsky, principal author and UCLA professor-in-residence of psychiatry, this is the first study to establish the role of tai chi in the management of late-life depression.
Researchers at UCLA studied a total of 112 adults, age 60 or older, all initially treated with the antidepressant drug escitalopram. After four weeks of medication, nearly two-thirds of participants still scored high on depression scales. These patients were then randomly assigned to ten weeks of either tai chi instruction or a health education class. Both courses were given over two hours, once a week. At the conclusion of the ten week period, 94 percent of those practicing tai chi showed significant improvement, compared with only 77 percent in the health education class. Regular attendance in the courses also meant that patients were spending time with others. This social interaction likely added to the improvement seen in both groups.
The tai chi group also experienced improved cognition and memory and increased energy levels, and they reported a better quality of life. Additionally, blood tests revealed a reduction in markers for inflammation. "Altogether the effects were pretty dramatic," said Dr. Lavretsky. "If a psychiatrist were to add exercise like tai chi...that would be a very beneficial thing instead of adding another drug."
Tai chi involves flowing through a series of postures that are coordinated with deep breathing. The focused attention that it requires effectively absorbs an individual into a meditative state. All joints and major muscle groups are exercised continuously without the strain that can come from high-impact activities, making tai chi suitable for people of virtually all ages and fitness levels. Still, the intensity depends on the style of tai chi that is practiced. This study utilized a form of tai chi known as tai chi chih, which is limited to nineteen movements and one pose.
Jeremiah Smith is a licensed and practicing pharmacist with a strong interest in nutrition and natural medicine. He is driven by a thirst for knowledge and a passion for helping others achieve optimal health. Smith writes articles on a range of topics related to wellness. You can visit his website at (http://www.anewvision.info/)