Tai Chi has been linked with reduced stress, anxiety and depression, and enhanced mood, in both healthy people and those with chronic conditions.
Despite the positive psychological effects linked with Tai Chi, a low impact martial art, researchers have suggested that there is a need for more high quality, randomised trials on its benefits.
In a systematic review of the subject, Dr. Chenchen Wang, Associate Professor, from Tufts Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Massachusetts, USA, worked with a team of researchers to pool the results of 40 studies, including 17 randomized controlled trials, into the mental health effects of Tai Chi.
"Tai Chi, the Chinese low impact mind-body exercise, has been practiced for centuries for health and fitness in the East and is currently gaining popularity in the West. It is believed to improve mood and enhance overall psychological well being, but convincing evidence has so far been lacking," she said.
The researchers found that practicing Tai Chi was associated with reduced stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increased self-esteem.
However, the quality of the studies identified was generally modest.
Particularly, rigorous, prospective, well controlled randomized trials with appropriate comparison groups and validated outcome measures are generally lacking.
"More detailed knowledge about the physiological and psychological effects of Tai Chi exercise may lead to new approaches to promote health, treat chronic medical conditions, better inform clinical decisions and further explicate the mechanisms of successful mind-body medicine," said Wang.
The study has been published in the open access journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.