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Tai Chi and Dementia

This week is Dementia Awareness Week. In the UK alone there are over 850,000 people living with dementia and this figure is only set to rise – to a predicted 1 million by 2025.


Dementia comes in many forms, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s, which counts for 65% of cases. Symptoms can include memory loss, disorientation, problems with simple tasks, balance problems, poor judgement, changes in mood, misplacing things.


Research has shown that Tai Chi can help with many of the symptoms that those living with dementia face. Below are three examples:


  1. In an 8 month study from the University of Florida and Fudan University, 120 elderly Chinese people from Shanghai were tested before and after a 40 week Tai Chi trial and results showed that afterwards the group which had been taking Tai Chi classes during that period (three times per week) showed increases in brain volume, as well as improvements in memory and thinking test scores. It was concluded that Tai Chi may delay the onset of degenerative mental illness.
  2. In another study, University of Washington researchers tested 2,288 people over the age of 65 without dementia – after 6 years 319 of those tested developed dementia. It was shown that of the group, those who had the best balance and mobility at the onset of the study were three times less likely to have dementia. Tai Chi’s improvements on balance have been well tested, clinically and empirically, and show to have a great impact.
  3. In a Hong Kong study Tai Chi and Mahjong were practiced with a group of 110 elderly residents of a residential home. A control group were assigned to a handicrafts group. The program ran for 12 weeks and participants were assigned to their activity 3 times per week. 9 months after completing the program, the Tai Chi and Mahjong group were shown to have made improvements in arithmetic, cognition, and most of all in short term memory.


It’s clear that great improvements can be made and it has been shown that some signs and symptoms of dementia, particularly in the early stages, can be reversed. If you or anyone you know are experiencing signs which may lead to dementia, we strongly recommend that you seek medical advice, but starting a Tai Chi (or Qigong) practice could help your overall physical and mental health in this area.

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