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Tai chi 'cuts depression in elderly people'

Washington , Thu, 17 Mar 2011 ANI

Washington, Mar 17 (ANI): Combining the 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art tai chi with a standard anti-depressant drug can effectively reduce symptoms of depression in elderly people, suggests a new study.


Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found greater improvement in the level of depression, along with improved quality of life, better memory and cognition, and more overall energy.


"This is the first study to demonstrate the benefits of tai chi in the management of late-life depression, and we were encouraged by the results," said first author Helen Lavretsky.


"We know that nearly two-thirds of elderly patients who seek treatment for their depression fail to achieve relief with a prescribed medication,' she added.


Lavretsky and colleagues looked at 112 adults aged 60 or older with major depression, who were treated with the standard antidepressant drig escitalopram for about four weeks.


Seventy-three participants, who showed only partial improvement, continued to receive the medication daily but were also randomly assigned to 10 weeks of either a tai chi class for two hours per week or a health education class for two hours per week.


All the participants were evaluated for their levels of depression, anxiety, resilience, health-related quality of life, cognition and immune system inflammation at the beginning of the study and again four months later.


The level of depression among each participant was assessed using a common diagnostic tool known as the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, which involves interviewing the individual.


The researchers found that among the tai chi participants, 94 percent achieved a score of less than 10, with 65 percent achieving remission (a score of 6 or less).


By comparison, among participants who received health education, 77 percent achieved scores of 10 or less, with 51 percent achieving remission.


While both groups showed improvement in the severity of depression, greater reductions were seen among those taking escitalopram and participating in tai chi, a form of exercise that is gentle enough for the elderly, said Lavretsky.


"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," she said.


"With tai chi, we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications," she added.


The study appeared in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. (ANI)


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