Tai chi improves Parkinson’s disease and mild cognitive impairment

by | April 5, 2022

Research from China that leans towards non-drug interventions cites benefits in Tai chi.


Tai chi can help improve the motor symptoms in those with Parkinson’s disease as well as delay decline in those with mild cognitive impairment, according to research done by Professor Shengdi Chen from the Neurology Department at Ruijin Hospital, Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, China. He published his findings in international medical journals, Translational Neurodegeneration and Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is the prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and it is also the best suitable stage for intervention. It is mainly characterised with memory decline. Due to the side effects and other risks in the early use of anti-AD drugs in MCI patients, non-drug interventions such as cognitive training and physical training have attracted attention of global researchers.

The research team of Professor Chen has been engaged in the research of MCI by using non-drug interventions for a long time. He and his research team used Tai chi in MCI patients for three years. The clinical studies revealed that in the first 12 months, Tai chi combined with cognitive training and only cognitive training had benefits. Besides, keeping Tai chi combined with cognitive training for two years showed delayed decline in global cognition and memory than withdrawing Tai chi combined with cognitive training.

Functional neuroimaging (fMRI) assessment further revealed that neural activity was enhanced after training, reflecting the effects of Tai chi on brain neural activity. Professor Chen said this result suggests that the Tai chi can delay the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease from MCI. The research team also found that long-term Tai chi improved the motor symptoms of patients with Parkinson’s disease.

The two philanthropic projects – “Tai Chi Adjuvant Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease” and “Tai Chi Training Delays Alzheimer’s Disease” – are supported by Fosun Foundation and Sino Taiji. Up to now, the “Tai Chi Adjuvant Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease” project has provided free courses for 445 patients with Parkinson’s disease, and will continue to carry out charitable Tai chi courses for patients with Parkinson’s disease across China. In addition, the “Tai Chi Training Delays Alzheimer’s Disease” project will launch a five-year in-depth clinical research to recruit MCI patients in the community, and to explore the effect of longer-term Tai chi training on MCI patients, helping more patients with MCI to improve their cognitive function and delay the occurrence of Alzheimer’s disease.


(** PHOTO CREDIT: Unsplash/Mark Hang Fung So)



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