Background: Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga are recognized as the most popular complementary approaches for alleviating musculoskeletal pain, improving sleep quality, and reducing blood pressure. The therapeutic effects of these meditative movements for treating major depressive disorder (MDD) is yet to be determined. Therefore, we examined whether meditative movements (Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga) are effective for treating MDD. Seven electronic databases (SPORTDiscus, PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, CNKI, and Wanfang) were used to search relevant articles. Randomized controlled trials (RCT) using Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga as intervention for MDD were considered for the meta-analysis (standardized mean difference: SMD).
Results: Meta-analysis on 15 fair-to-high quality RCTs showed a significant benefit in favor of meditative movement on depression severity (SMD = -0.56, 95% CI -0.76 to -0.37, p < 0.001, I² = 35.76%) and on anxiety severity (SMD = -0.46, 95% CI -0.71 to -0.21, p < 0.001, I² = 1.17%). Meditative movement interventions showed significantly improved treatment remission rate (OR = 6.7, 95% CI 2.38 to 18.86, p < 0.001) and response rate (OR = 5.2, 95% CI 1.73 to 15.59, p < 0.001) over passive controls.
Conclusions: Emphasizing the therapeutic effects of meditative movements for treating MDD is critical because it may provide a useful alternative to existing mainstream treatments (drug therapy and psychotherapy) for MDD. Given the fact that meditative movements are safe and easily accessible, clinicians may consider recommending meditative movements for symptomatic management in this population.
Keywords: depression; exercise; mindfulness/meditation; mood disorders; rehabilitation.