Category : Research
Let’s face it: being a student, especially at high school or tertiary level education, can be an extremely stressful time of life. Workloads, exams, and maintaining course requirements, in addition to the social and emotional pressures of being in a new environment and trying to maintain and enjoy a life both within and outside of school, places a tremendous amount of stress on a student, and maintains this stress for a significant amount of time. Long-term or chronic stress has been shown to have a detrimental affect on physical, mental and emotional health, and students who struggle to manage these stressors effectively often suffer from issues ranging from poor concentration and productivity, through sleep deprivation, weight gain, and poorer immune function, to more serious conditions such as anxiety, depression, and impaired social interactions. Managing these stressors and minimising their adverse affects are critical for a student to be successful not only in their studies but in their future life.
Tai Chi has been well researched as a means of promoting relaxation and reducing stress and anxiety, and researchers have been examining whether Tai Chi could be specifically beneficial for high school and college students. Much of the research does suggest that Tai Chi can be beneficial in many ways, and at least one systematic review of these studies1. has demonstrated a high level of evidence supporting Tai Chi as a means of reducing stress-related disorders such as anxiety and depression, as well as improved interpersonal sensitivity (such as coping skills) and flexibility. It also demonstrated significant moderate level evidence (termed “secondary benefits”) including decreased compulsive behaviour, somatization symptoms (focus on pain, weakness, shortness of breath, often linked with subsequent physical and mental disorders), hostility and symptoms of phobia. These benefits alone had the researchers calling for higher education institutions to consider including Tai Chi with their provided services as a means of promoting students’ physical and psychological well-being.
Other studies have focused on specific benefits, such as perceived stress, task attention, mood, sleep quality and self-esteem. For example, a study by Calwell and associates2. showed that increased mindfulness through the practice of Tai Chi accounted for changes in mood and perceived stress, which in turn improved sleep quality. A review of the literature will find numerous other studies supporting these benefits and others associated with health management, such as reduced blood pressure and improved immune function.
A summary of potential benefits Tai Chi can have for students is as follows:
- improved mental acuity (eg: attention, focus, clarity of thought);
- improved and more stable mood and interpersonal sensitivity;
- improved general health and fitness;
- better sleep quality;
- decreased perceived stress;
- decreased anxiety and depression.
With these benefits in mind, Tai Chi should be considered as an effective complimentary activity towards an overall successful study program. Students are one of many groups of people who can gain great benefits from practicing Tai Chi.
- Webster, et al. (2015). A systematic review of the health benefits of Tai Chi for students in higher education. Preventive Medicine Reports 3: 103-112.
- Caldwell, et al. (2010). Developing Mindfulness in College Students Through Movement-Based Courses: Effects on Self-Regulatory Self-Efficacy, Mood, Stress, and Sleep Quality. Journal of American College Health, 58(5): 433-422.