To examine the effects of an acute bout of Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) exercise (vs. neutral reading) on induced stress in TCC-experienced individuals and to determine if there were differences in cardiovascular and emotional reactivity to a laboratory mental stressor dependent upon TCC-experience status.
Twenty-eight females (mean ± SD, height: 161 ± 6cm; weight: 68 ± 9kg) were divided into TCC-experienced and inexperienced groups. Age, trait anxiety, and cardiorespiratory fitness levels of participants in both groups were matched. All participants completed the laboratory stressful task consisting of a mental arithmetic test, modified Stroop color-word test and general knowledge quiz. Those in the TCC-experienced group were then randomly assigned to complete either TCC exercise or neutral reading for 20 min. Heart rate (HR), systolic (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP), stroke volume (SV), cardiac output (Q), total peripheral resistance (TPR), and state anxiety (S-Anxiety) were measured at rest (BASE-LINE), prestressor (PRE-S), pretreatment (PRE-T), posttreatment (POST), and during 30-min recovery. Mixed ANOVAs were utilized to test the differences.
HR, SBP, Q, and S-Anxiety at PRE-T were significantly higher than those at BASELINE and PRE-S for both the TCC-experienced and inexperienced groups, indicating the stressor was effective in inducing stress. No significant differences were found with regard to the TCC-experience status for all variables except SBP, which was significantly higher in the TCC-experienced before and throughout the stressful task. HR during TCC exercise was significantly higher than HR during the neutral reading. No significant differences were found with regard to the treatment for other variables. Both treatments significantly decreased SBP and S-Anxiety at POST.
TCC experience status did not seem to influence cardiovascular and emotional reactivity to a mental challenge. TCC exercise may be an effective and dynamic way to reduce induced stress through coordinated body movements and increased HR.