Tai Chi May Improve Brain Function

Tim Watt  |  July 2, 2012

Many studies have shown Tai Chi is an excellent senior activity, as this low-impact exercise improves flexibility, muscle strength and balance. Tai Chi is a slow-motion exercise that can be designed to suit the individual whether they are fit as a fiddle or less active, according to the Harvard Medical School. Since Tai Chi has such a positive influence on one's physical health, it makes sense that the activity also has an impact on mental well-being.

A recent study conducted at the University of South Florida College of Public Health found practicing Tai Chi may be an effective strategy to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's Association reports there are at least 5.4 million Americans currently living with the illness, and this number will only continue to grow as the boomer generation ages.

Many studies have shown that increasing mental activity can stave off the symptoms of dementia, and the recent study found Tai Chi is effective at improving mental function. The researchers studied two groups of seniors who practiced Tai Chi, one that had no form of mental intervention and another that engaged regularly in discussion groups. They found those who participated in Tai Chi had more brain volume than those who did not. Lower brain volume is linked to memory loss.

"The ability to reverse this trend with physical exercise and increased mental activity implies that it may be possible to delay the onset of dementia in older persons through interventions that have many physical and mental health benefits," said study author Dr. James Mortimer, professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida College of Public Health.

Seniors living in retirement communities can find out if Tai Chi classes are offered or they can even get a group together to perform this exercise. Tai Chi can be done alone, but working out with a partner or a group is a great way to stay socially active as well.

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