Practicing Tai Chi — a form of ancient Chinese martial art — for 12-weeks may significantly reduce symptoms of depression such as persistent feeling of sadness or loss, a study showed.
Tai Chi, which has been used for more than 1,000 years, combines deep breathing and slow and gentle movements.
It is generally suitable for people of any level of physical fitness.
“While some previous studies have suggested that tai chi may be useful in treating anxiety and depression, most have used it as a supplement to treatment for others medical conditions, rather than patients with depression,” said Albert Yeung from Massachusetts General Hospital.
Tai Chi can be particularly effective for patients who avoid conventional psychiatric treatment, the researchers said.
For the study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the team recruited 50 participants through advertisements offering tai chi for stress reduction.
Of these 17 were in the tai chi group, 14 in the education group that included discussions on stress, mental health and depression and 19 in the passive control, wait-list group.
The 12-week assessments showed that the tai chi group had significantly greater improvement in depression symptoms than did members of either control group.
Earlier this year, China nominated Tai Chi, for inclusion in the Unesco List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Previous studies have found that Tai Chi could better help patients suffering from five painful conditions — back pain, osteoarthritis, neck pain, fibromyalgia, and severe headaches and migraine.