Tai Chi Carries Benefits For People With Dementia

Tai Chi exercise brings positive health benefits to older people with dementia, research from Bournemouth University has found[1].

“We were really interested to see if Tai Chi improves balance and prevents falls among people with dementia. This is an important issue because people with dementia are twice as likely to fall, and twice as likely to have injuries as a result of falls,”

said study leader Dr. Samuel Nyman, a Principal Academic at Bournemouth University.

Quality Of Life

The TACIT Trial looked at the benefits that Tai Chi can bring for people with dementia, specifically looking at whether Tai Chi could prevent falls and improve quality of live. The researchers took a control group, who carried out normal activities, and measured them alongside a group of a similar make up who all undertook a six month Tai Chi programme.

They found that those who had followed a programme of Tai Chi maintained a good quality of life, whereas those in the control group had a decline in life quality over the same period.

“We found that those who did Tai Chi really enjoyed the classes and meeting up with others who have dementia and their family carers. We found Tai Chi to be an incredibly safe and gentle exercise, and family carers were happy to support their loved ones with the classes and home practice. Although we found no improvements in scores on balance tests, there was a strong trend for those in the Tai Chi group to have fewer falls,”

Dr. Nyman said.

Adverse Outcomes Of Falls

Falls are a major public health issue among older people, particularly in people with dementia, who are more than twice as likely to fall and twice as likely to experience injurious falls as cognitively intact peers.[2] Those with dementia who are admitted to hospital with a fall injury are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes during their stay and after discharge such as hospital readmission, institutionalisation, and mortality.

Tai Chi is an ancient form of Chinese mind–body exercise, where participants carry out smooth and continuous body movements along with deep breathing and mental concentration; equivalent to moderate-intensity exercise and quiet meditation.

The study was a randomized clinical trial carried out across the South of England, with Tai Chi sessions in Dorset, Southampton and Portsmouth.

There are plans to continue the research with a larger study that will seek to prove through more data that Tai Chi does prevent falls, specifically in people with dementia. It will also seek to understand how exactly Tai Chi does reduce falls.

[1] Nyman SR, Ingram W, Sanders J, Thomas PW, Thomas S, Vassallo M, Raftery J, Bibi I, Barrado-Martín Y. Randomised Controlled Trial Of The Effect Of Tai Chi On Postural Balance Of People With Dementia. Clinical Interventions in Aging (2019). DOI: 10.2147/CIA.S228931

[2] Meuleners L, Hobday M. A population-based study examining injury in older adults with and without dementia. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017;65(3):520–525. doi:10.1111/jgs.14523