Psychiatric Expert: Tai Chi and Qigong Can Improve Mood in Older Adults
September 26, 2013 -
Complementary use of mind-body
exercises, such as Tai Chi and Qigong, can improve clinical outcomes of mood
disorders in older adults—as demonstrated in brain scans, biomarkers of cellular
aging, and mental health rating scales. This is according to Helen Lavretsky,
MD, MS, an expert in geriatric psychiatry and holistic medicine, who spoke on
this topic at the recent the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting.
"Mind-body exercise, which includes yoga, Qi Gong, and Tai Chi, is used to
improve psychological well-being, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, balance,
pain, insulin resistance, depression, and anxiety," she said.
colleagues and others often ask her to differentiate between aerobic and
mind-body exercise as regards individual responses, Lavretsky described an
observational study she and others conducted at a local YMCA that clarified the
The study involved 42 participants, with ages ranging from 51 to
78. Twenty of them routinely participated in a yoga or Tai Chi class and 22
routinely participated in an aerobic exercise class for at least 60 minutes per
Questionnaires profiling participants' mood states, general health
functioning, sleep, and pain levels were reviewed.
In general, Lavretsky said,
participants in yoga or Tai Chi classes had significantly greater levels of
vitality and lower levels of tension, depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue,
as determined from their mental health component scores. Furthermore, they had
significantly higher mental health composite summary scores on the 12-Item Short
Form Health Survey and fewer sleep problems than did those in the aerobic
Despite gains in the treatment of major depression in recent
decades, Lavretsky said that "only about 30% of older depressed patients achieve
remission with the first-line antidepressant pharmacotherapy."
non-pharmacological interventions—such as mind-body interventions—can improve a
partial response to antidepressants via stress reduction, improved physical
functioning, increased socialization, and reduced risks of poly-pharmacy."