Long-term Tai Chi Training Improves Dual-task Postural Control and Cognition in Aging Adults
August 26, 2019 - Many activities within our daily lives require us to stand upright while concurrently performing a cognitive task (ie, dual tasking). The "costs" of dual tasking can present as a detriment to either task, or even both. Evidence supports that Tai Chi improves both postural control and cognition. The Harvard Medical School led a study to (1) determine whether long-term Tai Chi training reduces dual-task costs to standing postural control, and (2) determine whether it characterizes the relationship between these costs and cognition in aging adults with and without long-term Tai Chi training.
Twenty-six Tai Chi experts (ages ranging from 55 to 71, Tai Chi experience ranging from 13 to 35 years) and 60 controls (aged 56 to 72 who didn't know Tai Chi) were studied. Center-of-pressure sway speed and elliptical area were recorded during quiet and dual-task standing. In addition, postural sway speed and range were analyzed in the anterior-posterior and medial-lateral direction. Dual-task cost was calculated as the percent change in center-of-pressure outcomes from quiet to dual-task conditions. Cognition was assessed with the digit span (verbal memory), trail making test (working memory and task switching ability), category naming (semantic verbal fluency), and F-A-S test (phonemic verbal fluency).
Results: Tai Chi experts had significantly lower dual-task costs to postural control in elliptical area compared with TC-naives. Tai Chi experts also performed better on the digit span, trail making test A, and category naming, compared with TC naives. There was not a clear significant association between better cognitive functioning and lower dual-task costs for either groups. These group differences and associations were independent of age, body mass index, education, and physical activity level.
These observations suggest cognitive-motor benefits from Tai Chi and the need for future controlled trials.