Effects of Chinese Mind-Body Exercises on Executive Function in Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Author: Fei-Fei Ren1, Feng-Tzu Chen2, Wen-Sheng Zhou3, Yu-Min Cho4, Tsung-Jung Ho5,6, Tsung-Min Hung7,8, Yu-Kai Chang7,8
1 Department of Physical Education, Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijing, China.
2 Sport Neuroscience Division, Advanced Research Initiative for Human High Performance, Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.
3 College of Physical Education, Nanjing Xiaozhuang University, Nanjing, China.
4 Tzu Chi Medical Foundation, Alhambra, CA, United States.
5 Integration Center of Traditional Chinese and Modern Medicine, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, Hualien, Taiwan.
6 Department of Chinese Medicine, Hualien Tzu Chi Hospital, Hualien, Taiwan.
7 Department of Physical Education, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan.
8 Institute for Research Excellence in Learning Science, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan.
Conference/Journal: Front Psychol
Date published: 2021 May 21
Other: Volume ID: 12 , Pages: 656141 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.656141. , Word Count: 382

Chinese mind-body exercises (CMBEs) are positively associated with executive function (EF), but their effects on EF, from synthesized evidence using systematic and meta-analytic reviews, have not been conducted. Therefore, the present systematic review with meta-analysis attempted to determine whether CMBEs affect EF and its sub-domains, as well as how exercise, sample, and study characteristics moderate the causal relationship between CMBEs and EF in middle-aged and older adults. Seven electronic databases were searched for relevant studies published from the inception of each database through June 2020 (PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, Cochrane Controlled Trials Register, Wanfang, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, and Weipu). Randomized controlled trials with at least one outcome measure of CMBEs on EF in adults of mean age ≥ 50 years with intact cognition or mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and with or without chronic diseases were included. A total of 29 studies (N = 2,934) ultimately were included in this study. The results indicated that CMBEs improved overall EF (Standardized Mean Differences = 0.28, 95% CI 0.12, 0.44), as well as its sub-domains of working memory and shifting. The beneficial effects of CMBEs on EF occurred regardless of type (Tai Chi, Qigong), frequency of group classes (≤2 time, 3-4 time, ≥5 times), session time (≤45 min, 46-60 min), total training time (≥150 to ≤300 min, >300 min), and length of the CMBEs (4-12 week, 13-26 week, and >26 week), in addition to that more frequent participation in both group classes and home practice sessions (≥5 times per week) resulted in more beneficial effects. The positive effects of CMBEs on EF were also demonstrated, regardless of participants mean age (50-65 years old, >65 years old), sex (only female, both), and cognitive statuses (normal, MCI, not mentioned), health status (with chronic disease, without chronic disease), as well as training mode (group class, group class plus home practice) and study language (English, Chinese). This review thus suggests that CMBEs can be used as an effective method with small to moderate and positive effects in enhancing EF, and that more frequent group classes and home practice sessions may increase these effects. However, certain limitations, including strictly design studies, limited ES (effect size) samples for specific variables, and possible biased publications, required paying particular attention to, for further exploring the effects of CMBEs on EF.

Keywords: Qigong; Tai Chi; aging; cognitive control; cognitive function; physical activity; research synthesis.

PMID: 34093345 PMCID: PMC8175659 DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.656141