Stroke: Tai Chi to regain your body and mind

Anxiety, depression or sleep disorders occur in about a third of stroke survivors and are associated with higher disability and death rates. People with post-stroke depression also frequently report anxiety, stress, and poor sleep. Tai chi, which focuses on releasing tension in the body, could help reduce these various symptoms and promote post-stroke recovery with a return to a better quality of life.

notes lead author Dr. Ruth Taylor-Piliae of the University of Arizona: “The practice of tai chi allows the person to calm the mind by focusing on the present and putting aside unnecessary negative emotions, such as depression.”

The study evaluated the effects of tai chi practice in 11 stroke survivors, average age 70, reporting symptoms of depression. The participants followed a program of 3 sessions per week, over 8 weeks. Each session included a 10-minute warm-up period, 40 minutes of tai chi practice, and a 10-minute cool-down period. Participants gradually learned 24 basic movements. Researchers assessed symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress before and after the intervention using standardized questionnaires. Sleep was assessed during the night using an accelerometer. At the end of the program, the researchers observe:

  • significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress compared to baseline measures;
  • better quality of sleep, fewer awakenings after falling asleep and less time awake;
  • While participants initially reported mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress, improvements in all of these self-reported symptoms and in sleep were achieved with an intervention of only 8 weeks of practice;
  • Analysis of blood samples shows that markers of oxidative stress have decreased after the operation, but no significant change is observed in markers of inflammation.

Tai chi thus helps reduce depressive symptoms in stroke survivors and also improves biochemical markers associated with depression.

If more research is needed to recommend the practice of post-stroke tai chi, these first results are promising with, however, a negligible risk of adverse effects …