Tai Chi as an ally against cognitive decline – WWN

Tai Chi as an ally against cognitive decline – WWN

Of Maria Giovanna Faiella

According to research published in Annals of Internal Medicinein people with mild cognitive decline an “enhanced” Tai Chi program improves cognitive functions, memory, movement control and ability to respond to sudden changes (and falls)

Tai Chi (or Tai ji quan) is a Chinese martial art characterized by slowness and harmony of movements. May this discipline favor the relaxation and balance, reducing the risk of falls and improving general health – physical and mental –, it was already known. Now, thanks to a new study published in the journal
Annals of Internal Medicine
has been shown to mitigate the risk of dementiain elderly people with mild cognitive or memory decline, an “enhanced” Tai Chi program, specially prepared by scholars with specific exercises drawn from this oriental discipline.

Mild cognitive decline and dementia

The mild cognitive declinewhich can be a early symptom of a more serious problem like the dementia, affects 16 to 20 percent of people over 65. This condition can cause memory and thinking problems and compromising performance of the so-called “dual task”, i.e the ability to carry out two activities simultaneously – for example talking and walking or holding objects in one’s hand – and, consequently, interfere with the complex tasks of daily life. Both cognitive decline and decreased ability to perform two tasks simultaneously are associated with a higher risk of falls, increased healthcare costs and even mortality.
The current ones Guidelines recommend physical exercise to preserve cognitive function and mitigate cognitive decline in older adultsbut the beneficial effects of Tai Chi on improving this condition were not fully known.

I study

The researchers ofOregon Research Institute conducted a study on more than three hundred elderly people with mild cognitive deficits or memory problems. The participants were divided into three groups who practiced at home for an hour twice a week (for 24 weeks) and were followed via videoconference to compare the effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving cognitive functions and of the “dual task”: the first group practiced the Standard Tai Chithe second is stretchinganother group followed a Tai Chi program aimed at enhancing cognitive abilities, particularly related to movement, balance and directional control. All participants were evaluated through different tools such as the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), the difference (expressed as a percentage) between gait speed depending on whether a single task or two tasks were assigned, at 24 weeks; later, the researchers used specific tests diagnostics aimed at evaluating cognitive deficits, such as: CDR-SOBC – Clinical Dementia Rating Scale-Sum of Boxes); Trail making test B; DSB-Digit Span Backward and physical performance tests.


A score was assigned based on each person’s skills and the results were evaluated at 16 and 24 weeks, then six months after the interventions. Well, the elders who followed the enhanced Tai Chi therapeutic program, already after 24 weeks they showed, compared to the other interventions – standard Ti Chi and stretching -, significant improvements
both at a global cognitive level both in control of movements and walking and in the ability to respond to situations such as sudden changes (and falls). The beneficial effects were consolidated 48 weeks after the intervention. According to the researchers, the improvements achieved by the elderly in the group following the enhanced Tai Chi program suggest that it could be adopted for prevent (or slow down) cognitive deterioration in the elderly.

November 8, 2023 (modified November 8, 2023 | 07:57)

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