Aim. This paper reports a study to examine change in psychosocial status following a 12-week Tai Chi exercise intervention among ethnic Chinese people with cardiovascular disease risk factors living in the United States of America.
Background. Regular participation in physical activity is associated with protection against cardioavascular disease, and improvements in physical and psychological health. Increasing amounts of scientific evidence suggests that mind–body exercise, such as Tai Chi, are related to improvements in mental health, emotional well-being, and stress reduction. No prior study has examined the effect of a Tai Chi exercise intervention on psychosocial status among people with cardiovascular disease risk factors.
Methods. This was a quasi-experimental study. Participants attended a 60-minute Tai Chi exercise class three times per week for 12 weeks. Data were collected at baseline, 6 and 12 weeks following the intervention. Psychosocial status was assessed using Chinese versions of Cohen's Perceived Stress Scale, Profile of Mood States, Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, and Tai Chi exercise self-efficacy.
Results. A total of 39 participants, on average 66-year-old (±8·3), married (85%), Cantonese-speaking (97%), immigrants participated. The majority were women (69%), with ≤12 years education (87%). Statistically significant improvements in all measures of psychosocial status were found (P ≤ 0·05) following the intervention. Improvement in mood state (η2 = 0·12), and reduction in perceived stress (η2 = 0·13) were found. In addition, Tai Chi exercise statistically significantly increased self-efficacy to overcome barriers to Tai Chi (η2 = 0·19), confidence to perform Tai Chi (η2 = 0·27), and perceived social support (η2 = 0·12).
Conclusions. Tai Chi was a culturally appropriate mind–body exercise for these older adults, with statistically significant psychosocial benefits observed over 12-weeks. Further research examining Tai Chi exercise using a randomized clinical trial design with an attention-control group may reduce potential confounding effects, while exploring potential mechanisms underlying the relaxation response associated with mind–body exercise. In addition, future studies with people with other chronic illnesses in all ethnic groups are recommended to determine if similar benefits can be achieved.