Tai Chi Increases Brain Volume and Promotes Memory and Thinking, New Study Reveals

By Amy Taylor on June 20, 2012

In a controlled study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, researchers from the University of South Florida and Fudan University in Shanghai discovered that seniors who practised Tai Chi three times a week developed larger brain volume, and improved their memory and thinking skills.

In the past studies, it was found that people who participated in aerobic exercises have shown an increase in their brain volume which results to improvement in memory. This time, scientists focused on a lesser form of exercise, called Tai Chi.

The Study

Results were based on the analysis of an 8-month randomised trial which compared a group of seniors who did Tai Chi to another group which had no exercise. The Tai Chi group went through the exercise program three times a week over the entire trial period. Then, they participated in lively discussions to test whether their memory and thinking skills have improved.

The other group which did not receive Tai Chi sessions showed brain shrinkage over the same period of time. This is normal in seniors ages 60 to 70. In previous studies, brain shrinkage has been linked to dementia and gradual cognitive deterioration.

According to Dr James Mortimer of the University Of South Florida College Of Public Health, their findings imply that it is possible to delay the onset of mental disorders such as dementia in older people by using methods that have many benefits to both mental and physical health.

Exercise and Improved Mental Health

Prior research suggests that aerobics is associated with brain growth. Scientists still need to prove whether Tai Chi and similar forms of exercise have these effects too. Dr Mortimer pointed out that if this is shown; it would provide a strong support to the concept of ‘use it or lose it’ and inspire seniors to stay mentally and physically active.

But as to whether sustained mental and physical exercises can help in preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (being one of the most common forms of dementia) still needs to be figured out by more research.

According to Dr Mortimer, epidemiologic studies have shown that people who constantly engage in physical workout have lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.  "The current findings suggest that this may be a result of growth and preservation of critical regions of the brain affected by this illness." He said.

Tai Chi is a popular form of exercise practised in the West but originated in China. It is commonly described as a moving form of meditation and yoga.


Source of this article:

James A. Mortimer, Ding Ding, Amy R. Borenstein, Charles DeCarli, Qihao Guo, Yougui Wu, Qianhua Zhao, Shugang Chu. Changes in Brain Volume and Cognition in a Randomized Trial of Exercise and Social Interaction in a Community-Based Sample of Non-Demented Chinese Elders, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2012; 30 (4), published by IOS Press. 

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