Background: Blood pressure and glycemic control are associated with the management of depressive symptoms in patients with depression. Previous studies have demonstrated that both Tai Chi and aerobic exercise have positive effects on blood pressure and glycemic control. Few studies have compared the physiological effects of Tai Chi versus aerobic exercise in older adults with depressive symptoms. The objective of this study was to compare the effects of Tai Chi and aerobic exercise on weight, body mass index, blood pressure and glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) level in older persons with mild to moderate-severe depressive symptoms.
Methods: A randomized controlled trial was performed. The older persons (age ≥ 60 years old) with depressive symptoms were recruited. Then, participants were randomly allocated to the Tai Chi group and the aerobic exercise group received a 12-week 24-movement Yang’s Tai Chi intervention and aerobic exercise, respectively. Data collection occurred at baseline and after completion of the interventions (week 12).
Results: A total of 238 participants with mild to moderate-to-severe depressive symptoms were included in the final analysis, including 120 in the Tai Chi group and 118 in the aerobic exercise group. The difference in weight and body mass index in the Tai Chi group was 2.0 kg (Z = -4.930, P < 0.001) and 0.77 kg/m2 (Z = -5.046, P < 0.001) higher than that in the aerobic exercise group, respectively.
After the 12-week intervention, the systolic pressure and diastolic pressure in the Tai Chi group were 5.50 mmHg (Z = -2.282, P = 0.022) and 8.0 mmHg (Z = -3.360, P = 0.001) lower than that in the aerobic exercise group, respectively. The difference in HbA1c level in the Tai Chi group was 0.50% higher than that in the aerobic exercise group (Z = -4.446, P < 0.001).
Conclusion: This study showed that Tai Chi exercise was more effective in improving blood pressure and HbA1c level than general aerobic exercise. It suggested that Tai Chi might be an effective approach for the management of blood pressure and long-term glucose control in older persons with depressive symptoms.