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Martial Arts Like Tai Chi Can May Improve Mental Health


A recent assessment of over 40 studies is giving positive results using Tai Chi for improving mental health. Tai Chi is a gentle Chinese martial art of slow meditative physical exercise designed for relaxation and balance and health. This helps combines mental concentration, slow breathing and dance-like movements to increase life force energy.

Dr. Chenchen Wang, associate professor at Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine in Massachusetts, worked with a team of researchers to gather the results of the studies, including 17 randomized controlled trials, into the mental health effects of tai chi.

Wang stated, “Tai chi, the Chinese low-impact mind-body exercise, has been practiced for centuries for health and fitness in the East and is currently gaining popularity in the West. It is believed to improve mood and enhance overall psychological well being, but convincing evidence has so far been lacking.”

Wang and her colleagues found that practicing tai chi was associated with reduced stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increased self-esteem.

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Wang said, “More detailed knowledge about the physiological and psychological effects of tai chi exercise may lead to new approaches to promote health, treat chronic medical conditions, better inform clinical decisions and further explicate the mechanisms of successful mind-body medicine.”

In another similar study, Linda Larkey, PhD, of Arizona State University, and her research team scoured the medical literature, finding 77 published reports of scientific studies that looked at the two Chinese practices and compared them to other exercises or to a sedentary state.

The studies which we published between 1993 and 2007, looked at tai chi and qigong and the effects they have on health, physical function, falls, quality of life, one's feeling of self-efficacy, immune system functioning, psychological symptoms, and other factors.

The 77 studies they found included 6,410 participants. Both forms of activity incorporate a wide range of physical movements and slow, meditative, dance-like movements. Larkey said that this study shows ''stronger evidence base'' for the activities and their positive effects on bone health, cardio-respiratory fitness, physical functioning, balance, quality of life, fall prevention, and psychological health.

Larkey stated, "This combination of self-awareness with self-correction of the posture and movement of the body, the flow of breath, and mindfulness, are thought to comprise a state that activates the natural self-regulatory (self-healing) capacity."