The Effects of Tai Chi on the Executive Functions and Physical Fitness in Middle-Aged Adults with Depression: A Randomized Controlled Trial

Author: Ligong Zhang1, Dongshi Wang2, Chun Xie3, Siwen Liu4, Lin Chi5, Xuezhi Ma1, Fei-Fei Ren6
1 China Wushu School, Beijing Sport University, Beijing, China.
2 Faculty of Sports Science, Ningbo University, Ningbo, China.
3 Department of Physical Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, China.
4 China Swimming College, Beijing Sport University, Beijing, China.
5 School of Physical Education, Minnan Normal University, Zhangzhou, Fujian, China.
6 Department of Physical Education, Beijing Language and Culture University, Beijing, China.
Conference/Journal: Evid Based Complement Alternat Med
Date published: 2022 Sep 13
Other: Volume ID: 2022 , Pages: 1589106 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1155/2022/1589106. , Word Count: 300

The present study examined the effects of Tai Chi exercise on the executive functions (EFs) and physical fitness of middle-aged adults with depression.

A total of 39 middle-aged adults with depression (M age = 50.59, SD = 7.38) were randomly assigned to the Tai Chi group (n = 20) or the waiting-list control group (n = 19). The Tai Chi group engaged in two 90 min sessions of Tai Chi exercise per week for 12 weeks; the waiting-list control group was asked to maintain their usual daily routines for 12 weeks. Depression symptoms, EFs (i.e., inhibitory control, planning, working memory, and cognitive flexibility), and physical fitness (i.e., cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, power, and flexibility) were evaluated at the baseline (pretest), 6-week (mid-test), and 12-week (post-test) marks.

Both groups showed decreased depression symptoms over time. Compared with the control group, the Tai Chi group showed decreased reaction times for incongruent conditions in the Stroop test from pretest to mid- and post-test, and shorter reaction time for incongruent conditions in the Stroop test than the control group at post-test; the Tai Chi group performed significantly better than the control group in overall total move score of Tower of London (TOL). The Tai Chi group also showed increased total correct scores of TOL from pretest to mid- and post-test, and greater total correct scores of TOL than the control group at post-test. Additionally, results indicated that Tai Chi exercise comprehensively improved physical fitness from pretest to mid- and post-test. Greater performance in terms of cardiovascular fitness, muscular strength, and power was also found in the Tai Chi group at post-test than in the control group.

These findings suggest that the 12-week Tai Chi exercise improved inhibitory control, planning and working memory aspects of executive functions, and physical fitness in middle-aged adults with depression.

PMID: 36147650 PMCID: PMC9489347 DOI: 10.1155/2022/1589106