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"Energy" Exercise Defeats Depression

An ancient Chinese practice involving meditation, breathing exercises, and body movements has been found to relieve depression in a new study. The practice, known as qigong (pronounced "chee gung"), is related to tai chi and has existed for centuries as a way to cultivate inner strength and relaxation, to ward off disease, and to promote longevity and well-being.

Depression is a particularly challenging condition to treat when it affects older people. Researchers recruited 82 people over age 65 with diagnosed depression and assigned them to one of two groups. The intervention group practiced a form of qigong known as Baduanjin under the supervision of a trained practitioner for 16 weeks, three times a week, with each session lasting 30 to 45 minutes. People in this group were also asked to practice daily on their own for 15 minutes. The other participants spent time reading newspapers in a group in the presence of a therapist, which the researchers expected would have no impact on their depression.

After eight weeks, those who practiced qigong experienced improved mood, self-confidence, self-esteem, personal well-being, and physical health when compared with those in the newspaper-reading group.

"Twenty-five to forty percent of elderly people are depressed," said Professor Hector W.H. Tsang of the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "Our research shows that qigong practice can reduce depression and disability while increasing psychosocial resources, such as self-confidence and a sense of well-being."

(Tsang HW, Fung KM, Chan AS, et al. "Effect of a qigong exercise programme on elderly with depression." Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 2006;21:890-7)


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