UCLA Study Demonstrates Mood Benefits of Tai Chi

Related topics: Health & Wellness, Mental and Emotional Health

Tai chi continues to be reviewed positively in medical research—and is proving to be especially beneficial for seniors.

Seniors doing tai chi on the beach

Over the last few years, many "alternative therapies" have received bad marks in medical tests. But the ancient practice of tai chi has received positive attention from a number of universities and health institutions.

Tai chi (sometimes called qi gong or tai chi chuan) is a body awareness practice which originated in China as a martial art. It is sometimes called "moving meditation," as the goal is to increase awareness of one's body in space. Traditionally, tai chi practitioners speak of the concepts of yin and yang and a life force called qi, but whatever your beliefs, the actual physical practice of tai chi can be a good part of a fitness routine. More and more seniors are taking tai chi classes to improve balance, sleep, cardiovascular wellness and joint health. It has become part of the fall protection strategy for many older adults.

In March 2011, a new study from the UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences showed that tai chi can be effective in fighting late life depression. UCLA professor-in-residence Helen Lavretsky stated, "Depression can lead to serious consequences, including greater morbidity, disability, mortality and increased cost of care. 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, who may also have other, co-existing medical conditions, or cognitive impairment." Lavretsky adds, "With tai chi, we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing patients to additional medications."

For More Information

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine offers an introduction to the history, benefits and risks of tai chi.

To read more about the new study, visit the UCLA website. The university also studied the effects of tai chi on senior sleep quality in an earlier study.