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Stanford Medicine

Aging, Health and Fitness, Neuroscience

Study shows practicing tai chi may increase brain volume in healthy older adults

Walking near Washington Square Park when I used to live in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, I loved to watch the dozens of Chinese seniors that would gather to perform fluid tai chi exercises in near unison. Their ease of movement as well as the dedication, steady focus and sociability they brought to their practice amazed me.

I thought of their meditative motions while reading a recent Atlantic article on a study from the University of South Florida (USF) and Fudan University in Shanghai, China showing that practicing tai chi may enlarge the brain and boost memory.

In the study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, a controlled trial of 120 non-demented seniors from Shanghai were randomized to four groups. Each of three groups practiced tai chi, walking, or social interaction, while the fourth group received no intervention. Cognitive abilities were assessed by MRI and neuropsychological measures for dementia and certain mental capacities.

From The Atlantic:

The subjects in the control group showed brain shrinkage that was consistent with what has generally been observed among people in their 60s and 70s. The participants who practiced tai chi thrice a week, however, showed significant increases in brain volume as well as improvements in their memory and thinking test scores.

Previous research has been conducted on aerobic physical activity’s effect on the aging brain, and a Stanford study examined the less-aerobic tai chi’s ability to combat memory loss in older adults.

Previously: Study examines the benefits of Tai Chi for the elderly
Photo by MargiL

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