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Wayne PM, Walsh JN, Taylor-Piliae RE, et al. Effect of Tai Chi on cognitive performance in older adults: Systematic review and meta-analysis J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014; 62: 25-39
Is Tai Chi an effective exercise to improve cognitive function and prevent cognitive decline in older adults?
Cognitive decline is common as people age. Cognitive decline may influence an older adult’s memory and thinking skills. Physical activity may improve cognitive performance. Tai Chi is a physical activity that incorporates cognitive, meditative and social components to the exercise program. Tai Chi is a gentle activity, and with proper instruction it is a safe exercise for many older adults.
This review included 20 studies with 2553 participants. 11 studies were randomized controlled trials whose results were combined statistically, with 1,264 participants. The review assessed whether Tai Chi slowed cognitive decline in healthy older adults, and whether it improved cognitive function in older adults already experiencing cognitive decline. The studies looked at whether Tai chi improved global cognition or thinking, and executive functions such as memory, attention and processing speed. The review assessed whether Tai chi was effective when compared to other active interventions such as other physical activity interventions, and when compared to no intervention.
In healthy older adults Tai Chi improved executive function whether compared to no intervention (large effect) or other exercise such as walking (moderate effect). In older adults with cognitive impairment, Tai Chi also improved cognitive function whether compared to no intervention (moderate effect) or other active interventions such as exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy and mahjong (small effect).
Tai Chi has consistent, small effects on improving cognitive performance in both healthy older adults and older adults with some cognitive impairment.