T'ai chi 'can benefit mental wellbeing'

Taking part in T'ai chi could have numerous benefits for the elderly - including improving their mental wellbeing. This is according to new research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, which has been carried out by investigators from the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in South Korea and the University of Exeter in the UK.

According to the findings, the Chinese martial art can help to prevent falls among the elderly and boost mental health, but it does not improve the symptoms of cancer or rheumatoid arthritis.

Despite a number of contradictions to come out of the study regarding the advantages of T'ai chi, there was found to be definite correlation between the activity and improved psychological health among older individuals.

The authors wrote that benefits of the pursuit include "improvement of balance in older people as well as some meditative effects for improving psychological health".

Dr Lea Brindle, Chartered Occupational Psychologist, said: "It is likely that the mental health benefits accruing from practicing T'ai chi [as, indeed, yoga for example] are due to the meditative aspects of the practice."

"The benefits of meditation are well established. The focus and concentration required for these practices often induce a meditative state."

"The improvements of balance mentioned are also likely to have a similar cause. It seems there is a much smaller physical component affecting balance than the possibly much more significant aspect of mental poise and calm. My experience as a yoga teacher as well as a psychologist certainly bears this out."

Recent research published online in the journal PLoS One showed that older individuals who can play a musical instrument are less likely to suffer from memory loss and the inability to hear speech through exterior noise.

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