On NPR’s Morning Edition today, there was a story about a certain kind of yoga that appears to delay the onset of dementia, Cognitively Enhanced Tai Ji Quan.
“You’re really forcing your brain to think hard while you’re also doing the fluid mind-body movements,” [Dr. Elizabeth] Eckstrom explains.
The people who practice this type of cognitively enhanced tai chi improved their scores by about 3 points. “We’ve just given you six extra years of cognitive function,” she says. “That’s a lot.”
Her theory on why tai chi is effective is that it combines the memorization of the movements, known as forms, almost like a dance choreography. “So, you’re getting the physical activity, plus the memory piece,” she says.
While the study is small and demographically narrow, it does present a useful potential method for the onset of dementia. A larger population set next would be desirable. On the other hand, there could be worse ways to spend an hour or two twice a week!
For sure. One way would be to spend the time doing nothing. Although I can only assume that, as according to the small account of the study that was linked in the article, these study subjects weren’t compared with non-exercisers.Or, come to that, other forms of exercise (including actual tai chi) that have a well documented effect that seems more profound than this intervention.
Nothing sinister about that, in principle, as it reads like a small proof-of-concept study to see if there was much difference in relevant outcomes from two slightly different, watered down versions of tai chi. Problems only come when such studies are fed to media outlets by overlying exuberant PR departments and made to appear a bit more meaningful than they really are.