Tai Chi is a form of exercise that combines physical activity with breathing exercises and meditation. It has been linked with a wide range of different benefits, including relaxation as well as the ability to improve focus and concentration. Clearly, these benefits have the potential to assist in the management of ADD and ADHD.
A study of thirteen teenagers who had been diagnosed with ADHD showed that practicing Tai Chi twice a week for five weeks produced significant improvements in behavior, as assessed by teachers using the Conners Scale. At the end of the study, the adolescents had experienced improvements in their anxiety levels and they were also less likely to show inappropriate emotions or to spend as much time daydreaming. They were also showed a measurable reduction in hyperactivity. These improvements were maintained when the teenagers were assessed two weeks after the end of the Tai Chi sessions indicating the potential for long term changes.
Another study which was conducted during a six week summer camp program for teenagers diagnosed with mental conditions such as ADHD also found a significant improvement in the behavior of the participants. This study involved adolescents who had been diagnosed with a number of different mental conditions, approximately half of whom had a diagnosis of ADHD. The camp participants were split into two groups, one of which participated in the tai chi sessions and the other which did not and therefore acted as a control group. The tai chi group practiced tai chi for 45 minutes twice a week over a six week period. At the end of the six weeks, the teenagers who had been assigned to the tai chi group showed some significant improvements compared to their assessments at the beginning of the study. No such improvements were seen in the control group.
Those teenagers who had been practicing tai chi showed a significant improvement in terms of hyperactivity and their ADHD index subscores at the end of the study. However, when the participants were assessed at 12 weeks, six weeks after the end of the tai chi sessions, these improvements had been lost. This implies that the hold over benefits from the above study are limited, and that it is important for people to continue practicing tai chi in order to continue enjoying the benefits. This aligns with the recommendations of experienced practitioners who believe that a daily or at least every other day practice is necessary for optimal benefit.
The researchers found that practicing tai chi helped to reduce hyperactivity in the whole group, and that those teenagers who had been diagnosed with ADHD also showed improved cognitive skills. The study demonstrated that tai chi was able to increase self-control and improve mood. It was an effective treatment for managing ADHD.
Finding a way of managing the symptoms of ADD and ADHD for complementary use alongside the more conventional treatments is very important for everyone afflicted with this problem. ADD and ADHD can leave people feeling as if they are not in control of their own lives. It can create stress and anxiety, and it can make people feel as if they are less capable than those around them.
Tai chi can provide a means for people to take control of their own lives and to feel empowered. It can help to improve concentration and relieve the stress that is often associated with ADD and ADHD, particularly in adults who are affected by these conditions. It can also help to boost confidence and helps people to find ways of controlling their own attention so that they an achieve more.
Hernandez-Reif, M. Field, TM. Thimas, E. (2001) Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Benefits from Tai Chi. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. 5(2):120-3 Available online at http://www.bodyworkmovementtherapies.com/article/S1360-8592(00)90219-5/abstract Accessed 17/2/2011
Tai Chi May Improve Some ADHD Symptoms Available online at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/722490 Accessed 17/2/2011
Self-Help for Adult ADD/ADHD http://helpguide.org/mental/adhd_add_adult_strategies.htm Accessed 17/2/2011