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Tai Chi Can Improve Memory and Delay Onset of Alzheimer's in Elderly: Study

Update Date: Jun 23, 2012 12:47 PM EDT
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Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese form of meditative exercise, can make a person's brain bigger. And it can also help improve memory and thinking in elderly people and that may be helpful in delaying the onset of Alzheimer's, which is incurable, a new study has found.

The benefits of the art can be gained by practicing it three times a week.

Alzheimer's causes dementia and gradual brain deterioration due to shrinkage of the brain as nerve connections are gradually lost. Volume of the brain was known to be previously increased with aerobic exercise, but this is the first time that a less physically straining exercise like Tai Chi, which is already known to be helpful in relieving stress and help people with heart disease, has been discovered to have the same effect.

For the study, participant Chinese seniors were divided into two groups by the researchers. One, who practiced Tai chi three times a week, and another group which did not. The groups were studied for a span of eight months.

The test results revealed that people who practiced the art and also had lively discussions three times a week during the study, showed increased brain volume and improved memory and thinking, reported Independent.ie.

The group that did not practice Tai Chi showed brain shrinkage over the eight months which is generally the case in elderly people in their 60s and 70s.

The study suggests that exercise which includes mental health exercise component increase brain growth.

"If this is shown, then it would provide strong support to the concept of 'use it or lose it' and encourage seniors to stay actively involved both intellectually and physically," Dr James Mortimer, of the University of South Florida was quoted as saying by Independent.ie.

"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. Epidemiologic studies have shown repeatedly that individuals, who engage in more physical exercise or are more socially active have a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease," he added.

The study, helped by Fudan University, China, was published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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