Ruth Taylor-Piliae headshot
Ruth Taylor-Piliae, Ph.D., RN

Tai chi may potentially reduce depression, anxiety and stress as well as improve sleep in those who have had a stroke, according to the results of a small feasibility study presented at EuroHeartCare – ACNAP Congress 2021, an online scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology.

Tai chi’s slow, controlled movements are said to release tension in the body, incorporate mindfulness and imagery into movement, increase breathing awareness and efficiency, and promote overall relaxation of body and mind.

Approximately one-third of stroke survivors experience some level of depression and mental health disorder due to greater disability and mortality rates, according to study authors. Individuals with post-stroke depression frequently also report anxiety, stress and poor sleep, they added.

The study included 11 stroke survivors who reported symptoms of depression. Participants were, on average, 70 years old, and 55% were men.

After eight weeks of tai chi, the researchers observed “significant reductions” in symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress compared with baseline, along with better sleep efficiency, less wakefulness after sleep onset, and less time awake.

“At baseline, the participants reported mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. I was surprised and pleased with the improvements we observed in these self-reported symptoms and in sleep with just an eight-week intervention,” said Ruth Taylor-Piliae, Ph.D., RN, of the University of Arizona, Tucson.