Tai Chi For Mental Health

Mental health is a major area of concern in modern society with issues such as stress, depression and anxiety growing at an alarming rate. Though the statistics look grim there are actually several ways to combat these issues, Tai Chi being one of the most effective.

Two research studies of note:

1) Anxiety and sleep quality in university undergraduates aged 18-40 was observed for improvement in a research study using tai chi over a 10 week period with results presenting overall improvement in sleep quality for both control and intervention (tai chi) groups however a greater improvement was seen in the intervention group which also saw a reduction in anxiety levels whereas no report of lowered anxiety appeared in the control group (Cadwell et al., 2016).

2) A systematic review of the health benefits of tai chi for higher education students revealed that of the combined sample size of 9263 participants from 76 studies there was a reduction in depression, decreased anxiety and improved interpersonal sensitivity while also presenting possible reductions in symptoms of compulsion, decreased somatisation symptoms, decreased hostility and decreased symptoms of phobia (Webster et al., 2015).

Both studies used Tai Chi as an intervention on students (who are generally under a lot of pressure) to astounding effect. So what is it about Tai Chi that helps the state of mental health so much?

Tai Chi requires a person to slow down and be present in the moment. This means they are focused on the techniques and getting them correct during the form. A focused mind cannot wonder and when coupled with abdominal breathing, the body begins to regulate tension and blood flow while also releasing blockages through the sequenced movements.

The other benefit of Tai Chi is that when it is done in a group there is social interaction. Regular interaction with others can assist with the feelings of isolation that can occur with stress and depression.

For best results, Tai Chi should be turned into a daily routine in order to prevent the occurrence of disease rather than waiting to use it to fix a problem. As always for those who are interested in the full articles they can be found here:

1) Cadwell, KL., Bergman, SM., Collier, SR., Triplett, NT., Quin, R., Bergguist, J. & Pieper, CF. (2016). Effects of tai chi chuan on anxiety and sleep quality in young adults: lessons from a randomized controlled feasibility study. Nat Sci Sleep, 8. doi: 10.2147/NSS.S117392.

2) Webster, CS., Luo, AY., Krageloh, C., Moir, F. & Henning, M. (2015). A systematic review of the health benefits of Tai Chi for students in higher education. Prev Med Rep, 3. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2015.12.006.

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