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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.

Acknowledging that 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 distinctions.

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 week.

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 exercise group.

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."

"Therefore, 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."




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