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Glob Adv Health Med. 2015 Jul;4(4):38-48. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2015.058.

Impact of Short- and Long-term Tai Chi Mind-Body Exercise Training on Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults: Results From a Hybrid Observational Study and Randomized Trial.

Author information

1
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States (Ms Walsh).
2
Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States (Dr Manor).
3
Movement Disorders Unit, Department of Neurology, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, Tel Aviv, Israel (Dr Hausdorff).
4
Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States (Dr Novak).
5
Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States (Dr Lipsitz).
6
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States (Mr Gow).
7
Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States (Dr Macklin).
8
Harvard Medical School, Boston, United States (Dr Peng).
9
Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Division of Preventive Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States (Dr Wayne).

Abstract

in English, Chinese, Spanish

BACKGROUND:

Cognitive decline amongst older adults is a significant public health concern. There is growing interest in behavioral interventions, including exercise, for improving cognition. Studies to date suggest tai chi (TC) may be a safe and potentially effective exercise for preserving cognitive function with aging; however, its short-term and potential long-term impact on physically active, healthy adults is unclear.

OBJECTIVE:

To compare differences in cognitive function among long-term TC expert practitioners and age-matched and gender-matched TC-naïve adults and to determine the effects of short-term TC training on measures of cognitive function in healthy, nonsedentary adults.

DESIGN:

A hybrid design including an observational comparison and a 2-arm randomized clinical trial (RCT).

PARTICIPANTS:

Healthy, nonsedentary, TC-naive adults (50 y-79 y) and age-matched and gender-matched long-term TC experts.

METHODS:

A cross-sectional comparison of cognitive function in healthy TC-naïve (n=60) and TC expert (24.5 y ÷ 12 y experience; n=27) adults: TC-naïve adults then completed a 6-month, 2-arm, wait-list randomized clinical trial of TC training. Six measures of cognitive function were assessed for both cross-sectional and longitudinal comparisons.

RESULTS:

TC experts exhibited trends towards better scores on all cognitive measures, significantly so for category fluency (P=.01), as well as a composite z score summarizing all 6 cognitive assessments (P=.03). In contrast, random assignment to 6 months of TC training in TC-naïve adults did not significantly improve any measures of cognitive function.

CONCLUSIONS:

In healthy nonsedentary adults, long-term TC training may help preserve cognitive function; however, the effect of short-term TC training in healthy adults remains unclear.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:

ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01340365.

KEYWORDS:

Aging; cognitive function; dementia; tai chi

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