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Tai-chi, dance boost cognition in seniors

06 Jan 2019

Mind-body exercises, particularly tai chi and those that incorporate dance, are effective in improving global cognition, working memory and learning, among others, in elderly adults, a new meta-analysis has shown.

After applying the selection criteria, 32 randomized clinical trials, corresponding to 3,624 participants, were eligible for inclusion. Most of the studies (n=18) enrolled cognitively healthy elderly adults, while the remaining focused on participants with mild cognitive impairment. The mind-body interventions included were tai chi, yoga and dance.

A pooled analysis of 13 studies that used the Mini-Mental State Examination showed that all three mind-body exercises elicited significant improvements in global cognition as compared to controls (mean difference [MD], 0.92; 95 percent CI, 0.33–1.51; p=0.002).

This effect remained significant when analysis was restricted to either tai chi (10 studies; MD, 0.97; 0.18–1.76; p=0.02) or dance (two studies; MD, 1.12; 0.16–2.09; p=0.02) alone. Only one study had data on yoga, which showed no significant benefit of the intervention (MD, 0.2 –0.57 to 0.97; p=0.61).

In terms of secondary outcomes, researchers also found that mind-body exercises yielded significant improvements in cognitive flexibility (MD, –8.80; –15.22 to –2.38; p=0.007), driven mainly by yoga (MD, –11.06; –18.77 to –3.35; p=0.005).  

Similar overall effects were reported for working memory (MD, 0.32; 0.01–0.64; p=0.05), language fluency (standardized MD, 0.27; 0.09–0.45; p=0.003), and learning and memory (standardized MD, 0.24; 0.10–0.39; p=0.001).

The present findings underline the cognitive benefits of mind-body exercises, particularly of tai chi and dance, and the potential of recommending such interventions to elderly patients, said researchers.

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