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Table of Contents
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 246-247

Does tai chi and brisk walking exercises improve cognitive function in older adults?

Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, Rome, Italy

Date of Submission27-Jun-2021
Date of Decision28-Jun-2021
Date of Acceptance28-Jun-2021
Date of Web Publication20-Oct-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Chidiebere Emmanuel Okechukwu
Department of Public Health and Infectious Diseases, Sapienza University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro 5, 00185 Rome
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/injms.injms_75_21

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How to cite this article:
Okechukwu CE. Does tai chi and brisk walking exercises improve cognitive function in older adults?. Indian J Med Spec 2021;12:246-7

How to cite this URL:
Okechukwu CE. Does tai chi and brisk walking exercises improve cognitive function in older adults?. Indian J Med Spec [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Dec 9];12:246-7. Available from: http://www.ijms.in/text.asp?2021/12/4/246/328643

Dear Editor,

Physical inactivity was associated with increased occurrence of dementia among older adults,[1] hence the need for promoting physical activity among sedentary older adults. One study showed that older adults who engaged in either brisk walking or Tai Chi exhibited better executive functioning than sedentary older adults.[2]

Tai Chi is a moderate-intensity high cognitive-demanding physical activity that involves meditation, concentration, and high-level of consciousness. Tai Chi has been described as an exercise, a dance, and a way of enhancing mental strength and well-being. Tai Chi originated from ancient China, and it is a well-known type of mind–body exercise that consists of ancient Chinese philosophy and martial art.[3] The philosophy of Yin and Yang involves two contradictory and separate forces, which are applied in the pattern of Tai Chi movements. According to this Chinese philosophy, performing Tai Chi activates the communication of Yin and Yang energy within the human body. Engaging in Tai Chi for a long period may improve memory performance through remodeling the structure and function of the hippocampus.[4] There was improvement in cognitive function among older adults WHO engaged in Tai Chi (60-min, 8-form Yang-style Tai Chi training, twice a week) for the duration of 10 weeks during the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.[5] The Tai Chi sessions involve 15-min warm up (range of motion and flexibility exercises), 40 min of Tai Chi movements (repulse monkey, brush knees, part the wild horse's mane, wave hands SUCH AS clouds, golden rooster stands on one leg, left and right heel kick, grasp the peacock's tail, and cross hands), and 5-min cool down (breathing aerobics).[5]

The volume of brisk walk accumulated by older adults was associated with an improvement in cognitive functioning.[6] Walking at a moderate pace for at least 1.5-h/week for 2 years was protective against cognitive decline when compared to walking <40-min/week among older women.[7] Similar result regarding the positive impact of walking in reducing the risk of dementia was also found in older men.[8] There was improvement in cognitive function and memory among older adults who engaged in moderate-intensity cognitive walking program for 2 weeks (60-min/session, 12–13 in the Borg rating of perceived exertion scale, 3 sessions/week).[9] The cognitive walking program involves three walking patterns (each walking pattern consists of 15 stepping pattern, and a total of 45 distinct stepping patterns). The three walking patterns are (i) cardiorespiratory walking (walking patterns that are focused on improving the cardiorespiratory fitness by moving the lower limbs vigorously and widely [e.g., squat, adduction, and abduction], bending and straightening the knees to support the lower extremity muscles, and side-step movements to change the center of gravity), (ii) dual-task walking (walking patterns that require the upper and lower limbs to perform specific movements simultaneously), and (iii) visual memory walking which requires showing some levels and stages of walking patterns to the participants and having them perform the exercise based on memory.[9]

In conclusion, both Tai Chi and brisk walking exercises improve cognitive and memory functions among older adults. However, the combination of Tai Chi and brisk walking exercises may produce more significant outcome concerning improvement in cognitive and memory function among older adults. Therefore, an integrated Tai Chi and brisk walking/cognitive walking intervention should be tailored for healthy older adults. Moreover, physicians can as well tailor and prescribe an integrated Tai Chi and brisk walking regimen as an adjunct therapy for improving cognitive and memory function in support of pharmacological treatment for vascular dementia among older adults.

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  References Top

Kivimäki M, Singh-Manoux A, Pentti J, Sabia S, Nyberg ST, Alfredsson L, et al. Physical inactivity, cardiometabolic disease, and risk of dementia: An individual-participant meta-analysis. BMJ 2019;365:l1495.  Back to cited text no. 1
Ji Z, Li A, Feng T, Liu X, You Y, Meng F, et al. The benefits of Tai Chi and brisk walking for cognitive function and fitness in older adults. PeerJ 2017;5:e3943.  Back to cited text no. 2
Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, Etnier J, Lin F. A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. Am J Health Promot 2010;24:e1-25.  Back to cited text no. 3
Yue C, Yu Q, Zhang Y, Herold F, Mei J, Kong Z, et al. Regular tai chi practice is associated with improved memory as well as structural and functional alterations of the hippocampus in the elderly. Front Aging Neurosci 2020;12:586770.  Back to cited text no. 4
Solianik R, Mickevičienė D, Žlibinaitė L, Čekanauskaitė A. Tai chi improves psychoemotional state, cognition, and motor learning in older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. Exp Gerontol 2021;150:111363.  Back to cited text no. 5
Prohaska TR, Eisenstein AR, Satariano WA, Hunter R, Bayles CM, Kurtovich E, et al. Walking and the preservation of cognitive function in older populations. Gerontologist 2009;49 Suppl 1:S86-93.  Back to cited text no. 6
Weuve J, Kang JH, Manson JE, Breteler MM, Ware JH, Grodstein F. Physical activity, including walking, and cognitive function in older women. JAMA 2004;292:1454-61.  Back to cited text no. 7
Abbott RD, White LR, Ross GW, Masaki KH, Curb JD, Petrovitch H. Walking and dementia in physically capable elderly men. JAMA 2004;292:1447-53.  Back to cited text no. 8
Kang SJ, Kim BH, Lee H, Wang J. The beneficial effects of cognitive walking program on improving cognitive function and physical fitness in older adults. Healthcare (Basel) 2021;9:429.  Back to cited text no. 9


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