The psychological benefits of physical exercise have been well documented, but few studies have specifically researched the possible mental health benefits of Tai Chi. However, a recently published article has concluded that Tai Chi may improve your emotional well-being.
The article, which appears in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, mentions that the popularity of Tai Chi has spread worldwide over the past two decades. According to the Patience Tai Chi Association, Tai Chi is “slow-motion, moving meditative exercise for relaxation, health and self-defense.
The authors of the article reached their conclusions by analyzing and combining the results of many studies that were published in China and in English-speaking countries. The outcome of their research suggests that “Tai Chi may be associated with improvements in psychological well-being including reduced stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increased self-esteem” among individuals with chronic physical illnesses as well as healthy individuals. The authors also pointed out certain populations that experienced specific benefits of Tai Chi. They concluded that Tai Chi was beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety among individuals with HIV, elderly individuals with hip or knee osteoarthritis, and physically healthy individuals. Tai Chi participants who were diagnosed with depressive disorders tended to experience a decrease in their symptoms of depression.
Several groups of individuals, including healthy individuals, elderly individuals with cardiovascular disease risk factors, adolescents with ADHD, obese women, and healthy adults, reported mood improvements associated with the practice of Tai Chi. Healthy elderly participants reported improved self-esteem. None of these findings suggest that one should replace running, yoga, or meditation with Tai Chi. The research team does not claim that Tai Chi has superior psychological benefits compared to other forms of exercise and mindfulness training.
They acknowledge imperfections in many of the studies they reviewed. They noticed that the studies “published in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan reported unanimously positive results” on the practice of Tai Chi and acknowledged that “publication bias may vary across countries and cultures.”
Exercise is proving to be one of the best natural anti-depressants.