By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Tai Chi exercise had positive effects on the self-assessed physical and mental health of college students. Scores on the mental health dimension appeared to be particularly sensitive to change. Colleges/universities might consider offering Tai Chi as a component of their ongoing physical activity programs available to students.” – Y. T. Wang
Many people have fond memories of their college years. It is likely, however, that they forgot about the stress and angst of those years. The truth is that college is generally very stressful for most students, from the uncertainty of freshman year, to the social stresses of emerging adulthood, to the anxiety of launching into a career after senior year. Evidence for the difficulties of these years can be found in college counseling centers which are swamped with troubled students. In fact, it’s been estimated that half of all college students report significant levels of anxiety and depression.
Being able to perform at an optimum level is important in college. It would be very helpful if a
safe and effective way could be found to reduce stress, depression and anxiety in college students. Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and depression . So, mindfulness training would appear to be well suited to deal with the problems of college students. The ancient eastern practice of mindful movement Tai Chi has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. Hence, it would make sense to investigate whether Tai Chi practice might be effective for improving college student angst.
In today’s Research News article “A systematic review of the health benefits of Tai Chi for students in higher education”
Webster and colleagues review the published literature on the effectiveness of Tai Chi practice in improving college student physical and psychological states. They found that that the preponderance of evidence in the literature reported that Tai Chi practice significantly improved muscular flexibility. But the most interesting effects were in the psychological domain with Tai Chi practice significantly reducing depression, anxiety, symptoms of compulsion, somatization symptoms, hostility, and symptoms of phobia, and improved interpersonal sensitivity.
Hence, the published scientific literature suggests that Tai Chi practice can be of significant benefit for college students, improving them physically and improving their psychological well-being. Tai Chi practice is a gentle mindful movement practice. It is safe, having few if any adverse consequences, and effective with college students. This suggests that the engagement in Tai Chi practice should be encouraged in college promoting the physical and mental well-being of the students.
“Of all the exercises, I should say that T’ai Chi is the best. It can ward off disease, banish worry and tension, bring improved physical health and prolong life. It is a good hobby for your whole life, the older you are, the better. It is suitable for everyone – the weak, the sick, the aged, children, the disabled and blind. It is also an economical exercise. As long as one has three square feet of space, one can take a trip to paradise and stay there to enjoy life for thirty minutes without spending a single cent.” ~T.T. Liang
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies