Effects of 12-week Tai Chi program on physical function, depression, and quality of life among cognitively impaired older adults: a feasibility study

Author: Hyunkyoung Oh1, Rhayun Song2, Seon Joo Kim3
1 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, College of Nursing, PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI, 53211, USA. oh5@uwm.edu.
2 Chungnam National University, College of Nursing, 266 Munwha-ro, Jung-gu, Daejeon, 35015, South Korea.
3 Chungnam National University Hospital, 282 Munwha-ro, Jung-gu, Daejeon, 35015, South Korea.
Conference/Journal: BMC Geriatr
Date published: 2023 Mar 3
Other: Volume ID: 23 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 118 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1186/s12877-023-03840-2. , Word Count: 366

Older adults with cognitive decline need physical activity for maintaining brain health and mitigating cognitive decline. Tai Chi is a safe and gentle aerobic exercise and has been recommended for people with various health conditions to improve their physical functioning, well-being, and quality of life (QoL). This study aimed to determine the feasibility of a 12-week program of Tai Chi for memory (TCM) among older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia; and to determine the pilot effects of TCM on physical functioning, depression, and health-related QoL.

A quasi-experimental design was used with two groups: MCI and dementia. The feasibility of the 12-week TCM program was assessed after it finished in terms of its acceptability, demand, implementation, practicality, adaptation, integration, expansion, and limited-efficacy testing. Other health-related outcomes, physical functioning, depression, and health-related QoL were measured before and after the TCM program. Outcome measures consist of a digital hand dynamometer for grip strength, the standard sit-and-reach test, the one-leg-standing balance test, timed up and go (TUG) test, the Korean version of the Geriatric Depression Scale, and the 12-item Short Form survey (SF-12). Paired and independent t-tests were used to compare the effects of TCM within and between groups.

The TCM program was completed by 41 participants with MCI (n = 21) or dementia (n = 20), and its accepted feasibility was assessed. After TCM, the MCI group exhibited significant enhancements in right-hand grip strength (t = - 2.13, p = .04) and physical-health-related QoL (t = - 2.27, p = .03). TUG scores improved in both groups (MCI, t = 3.96 p = .001; dementia, t = 2.54 p = .02). The adopted form of the TCM program was effectively and safely applied to those with various levels of cognitive impairment. The program was well accepted by the participants with a mean attendance rate of 87%. No adverse events were reported during the program.

TCM has the potential to improve physical functioning and QoL. Since there was no comparison group to control for confounding factors and low statistical power in the present study, further studies are warranted with a stronger design that includes longer follow-up periods. This protocol was retrospectively registered on Dec 1, 2022 (NCT05629650) at ClinicalTrials.gov.

Keywords: Dementia; Feasibility; Mild cognitive impairment; Quality of life; Tai Chi.

PMID: 36869290 DOI: 10.1186/s12877-023-03840-2