There are a number of martial art practices that have been researched in association with improving depression. Although any martial art will most likely help to alleviate the symptoms of depression, the following have received the most attention.
The ancient Chinese practice of Qigong (pronounced “chee gung”), which involves meditation, breathing exercises, and body movements, can reduce the symptoms of depression. The practice has existed for centuries as a way to cultivate inner strength and relaxation, to ward off disease, and to promote longevity and well-being.
In a study at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, participants who practiced Qigong for 8 weeks experienced improved mood, self-confidence, self-esteem, personal well-being, and physical health compared with those in a newspaper-reading group.
The source of depression in traditional Chinese medicine is generally related to the liver and doing Qigong can help move the liver qi. Pronounced “chee,” qi is the Chinese word used to describe energy.
Taekwondo, sometimes spelled “Tae Kwon Do,” is a Korean martial art that traces its history back to ancient Korea as far as 50 B.C. Its enduring popularity has resulted in a divergent evolution of the martial art. As with other martial art practices, taekwondo is a combination of combat technique, self-defense, sport, exercise, entertainment, and philosophy.
It has been theorized that Taekwondo enhances self-esteem through the provision of physical activity and group experience, and the teaching of relaxation, concentration, assertiveness, directiveness and honesty in communication.
In an exercise study of 20 male and female college-age students, a single 75-minute Taekwondo session significantly improved mood states associated with depression. Participants experienced a reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and fatigue and an increase in vigor and ability to concentrate.
Tai Chi, shortened from “Tai chi chuan,” is a martial art that has been practiced in China for centuries. Studies have indicated that Tai Chi can help reduce the incidence of depression and mood disturbances. The benefits of Tai Chi extend beyond those of simply exercising. The combination of exercise, meditation, and breathing all play a role in the relief of depression.
A study at the University of Hong Kong found that regular Tai Chi exercises helped improve mood in a group of older patients with depressive disorders.
In a number of clinical studies, Tai Chi has been particularly effective in improving self-esteem and health-related quality of life in older populations. Because Tai Chi improves balance, it helps to reduce falls in the elderly, something which has been linked to depression. When people over the age of 65 fall and break a hip, many never fully recover and about 15 to 20% die within the year. Approximately 50%
of patients who lived independently before sustaining a hip fracture are unable to regain their independent lifestyle; instead facing ongoing disability and prolonged institutionalization. Tai Chi can reduce the risk of fracture by improving balance. In doing this, it also reduces the risk of depression because many people become afraid to go out and exercise after a fall and subsequently become depressed.