Tai Chi Moves Improve Moods and Fight Depression In Elderly
March 28, 2011
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
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 escitalopram 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
"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,