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Innovative UQ Tai Chi program treats depression, diabetes and obesity

Promising results from an innovative UQ Tai Chi based study show depression, diabetes and obesity can all be improved through a gentle mind-body therapeutic program.

The proportion of participants with clinical levels of depression decreased from 60 percent to 20 percent. BMI and waist circumference also significantly decreased by 4 percent and 3 percent respectively.

This specific program may be the first exercise program that has scientifically shown significant effects of exercise alone on both depression and diabesity (diabetes and obesity).

Dr Liu Xin, a UQ scientist and a renowned expert in the field of mind-body therapy, developed this unique program for the control of depression and diabesity.

The three month pilot study, funded by the Diabetes Australia Research Trust, was conducted at The University of Queensland. “Without involvement of any dietary intervention and high intensity training, it was very encouraging to see such impressive results over a short period of time,” Dr Liu said.

"In addition to the improvements in depression and obesity, the results of the study also show that this specific program has a beneficial effect on indicators of blood glucose control (decreased by 6 percent), hypertension (decreased by 9 percent and 12 percent in systolic and diastolic blood pressure respectively) and insulin resistance (decreased by 20 percent),” he said.

"Other reported benefits include improvements in energy levels, sleeping patterns, urinary control, breathing, immunity, confidence, self-esteem and coping; and positive changes in life perspective and family harmony”.
"The majority of the promising findings were replicated in a following randomized controlled trial."

An extended large controlled study named SMILE* Tai Chi Program focusing on depression and obesity has recently been funded by the National Heart Foundation and Beyondblue (SMILE* refers to Mental and Metabolic Syndrome Innovative Life-long Exercise).

The funding is the second largest grant ever provided under the National Heart Foundation and Beyondblue Cardiovascular Disease and Depression Strategic Research Program.

The prevalence of depression and obesity are two of the most common health problems in the western world.

In Australia, one in five people experience depression at some stage of their lives, and more than half of Australian adults are either overweight or obese.

"If this SMILE program can be further confirmed to have beneficial effects on indicators of depression, obesity and other risk factors for developing cardiovascular diseases in the large trial, the findings can be translated into great social and economic benefit for public health," Dr Liu said.

Information: the researchers are currently looking to recruit more volunteers to take part in this upcoming large study, which starts now. People with both depression and central obesity [waist of more than 94 cm (men), more than 80 cm (women) or Body Mass Index of more than 30] can contact the Smile Program Hot Line by phone (3240 6426 / 3240 2051) or by email (smileprogram@uq.edu.au).

Media contact: for more information contact Dr Liu Xin (telephone 07 3240 6122 email xin.liu@uqconnect.edu.au) or Jan King at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 1120).

“As published on the University of Queensland website at http://www.uq.edu.au/news/index.html?article=20438