Tai chi could reduce anxiety, depression and stress among stroke patients, a new study has found.
One-third of stroke survivors are believed to suffer from depression, along with other mental health issues such as stress and anxiety, and poor sleeping habits.
New research from a small feasibility study has been presented at EuroHeartCare - ACNAP Congress 2021, an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology, and suggests regularly practising tai chi could help combat these issues.
"Mind-body interventions are commonly used among adults to lessen depressive symptoms," said study author Dr Ruth Taylor-Piliae from the University of Arizona, Tucson. "Tai chi practice allows the individual to quiet the mind by dwelling in the present and setting aside unnecessary negative emotions, such as depression."
Tai chi aims to reduce tension in the body and improve relaxation of the body and mind through a series of movements and breathing awareness techniques. It also promotes mindfulness and imagery to help people feel calmer.
For the study, 11 stroke patients with an average age of 70 who had reported feeling depressed attended tai chi classes three times a week for eight weeks. Participants were taught 24 basic movements from the Wu style of tai chi.
Symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress were calculated using questionnaires that the participants filled out at the start and end of the study.
Scientists found the participants reported a significant reduction in depression, stress and anxiety after completing the tai chi course and enjoyed better sleep quality with fewer waking periods during the night.
"At baseline, the participants reported mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress," Dr Taylor-Piliae said. "I was surprised and pleased with the improvements we observed in these self-reported symptoms and in sleep with just an eight-week intervention."
Scientists insist the results should be evaluated "with caution" and are hoping to repeat the study by increasing the sample size, adding a control group and enrolling the participants on a longer, 12-week tai chi course to monitor the results.