The effects of tai chi on measures of stress and coping style

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Background The biological response (heart-rate variability; HRV) to an acute psychological stressor, as well as cognitive changes in anxiety and coping style following tai chi (TC) in healthy male college students, has not been investigated in the literature. Objectives The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of TC on: (1) HRV biomarkers of acute psychological stress, (2) state anxiety, and (3) coping style in healthy male college students. Methods The study was an RCT, in which the experimental group (n=9) received TC (twice a week for 8 weeks) and the control (C) group (n=11) did not receive treatment. Reactions to an acute psychological stressor were measured by the HRV's standard deviation of normal to normal intervals (SDNN), and Spielberger's State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI). Four 'trials' (baseline; stressor; recovery 1 and recovery 2) were conducted, with pre-tests/post-tests performed for both study groups. The Problem-Focused Styles of Coping (PFSOC) questionnaire was used to examine coping styles pre-test/post-test for both groups. Results Significant differences were found: (1) for group, test, and trial, the interaction of trial by group, and the interaction of test by trial for SDNN, P<0.05; (2) for test, trial, and the interaction of test by group for STAI (P<0.05); and (3) for the interaction of group and test for the suppressive coping style (P<0.05). Conclusions Tai chi affects biological reactions to an acute psychological stressor, perceptions of anxiety to an acute stressor and coping styles in healthy male college students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-96
Number of pages8
JournalFocus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015


  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • coping
  • heart-rate variability
  • stress
  • tai chi


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