Background: Many people seek alternative treatments to reduce stress and to manage anxiety. To counsel people appropriately, physicians need to understand current evidence and recognize both the value and defects in the facts.
Objective: To review the effect of Tai Chi interventions on improvement of mental health and to learn lessons from current evidence through various clinical studies.
Methods: A literature search was performed to identify research studies that assessed Tai Chi's mental health benefits. Selected studies were classified according to research design, outcome measures, and results. They were qualitatively assessed based on Tai Chi's significant influence on mental health in the areas of mood, stress, and anxiety level.
Results: After screening in citations that mentioned Tai Chi as an intervention, we found 21 clinical studies, all of which included at least one outcome measure of mental health or a testing system that included a mental health component. Our results show low evidence of recommending Tai Chi intervention to all patients who seek improvement in mental health despite that many positive effects of Tai Chi practice on mood and anxiety were found in different clinical trials.
Conclusion: Considering the fact that Tai Chi is a gentle exercise, well suited for people with various physical capabilities, especially the elderly, health care providers may consider recommending it to people with mental health issues and seek alternative treatment besides routine medical care. Nonetheless, clinicians should be aware of the limitations due to incomplete understanding of Tai Chi as an intervention. Better evidence and stronger clinical trial designs are needed to further investigate Tai Chi's role in improving mental health.