Tai Chi Can Turn Depression Around
September 2011
Print

Try This Gentle Mind-Body Medicine

Tai_ChiArecent study published in the online edition of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reveals that more than 2 million people age 65 and older suffer from depression, including 50 percent of nursing home residents. In seeking an alternative to aggressive drug treatments, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), turned to a gentle, westernized version of Tai chi, a 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art.

During the study, 112 adults age 60 or older that had been diagnosed with major depression were treated with a standard antidepressant drug for four weeks. The 73 adults that showed only partial improvement continued to receive the medication, but were also assigned to 10 weeks of either Tai chi or health education classes. The group practicing Tai chi experienced greater improvement in their levels of depression, as well as an enhanced quality of life, better cognition and more overall energy than the non-practicing group.

Dr. Helen Lavretsky, the study’s first author and a UCLA professor-in-residence of psychiatry, says, “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 that may also have other, coexisting medical conditions or cognitive impairment. With Tai chi, we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications.”