Effects of Tai Chi and Qigong on cognitive and physical functions in older adults: systematic review, meta-analysis, and meta-regression of randomized clinical trials

Author: Moonkyoung Park1, Rhayun Song2, Kyoungok Ju1, Jacqueline C Shin3, Jisu Seo1, Xing Fan1, Xianqi Gao1, Ahyun Ryu1, Yuelin Li1
1 Chungnam National University, College of Nursing, Daejeon, 35015, Republic of Korea.
2 Chungnam National University, College of Nursing, Daejeon, 35015, Republic of Korea. songry@cnu.ac.kr.
3 Indiana State University, Department of Psychology, Terre Haute, IN, 47802, USA.
Conference/Journal: BMC Geriatr
Date published: 2023 Jun 6
Other: Volume ID: 23 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 352 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1186/s12877-023-04070-2. , Word Count: 361

Older adults experience age-related declines in physical and cognitive functions due to interactions between aging and chronic diseases. Tai Chi and Qigong (TCQ) might be beneficial in improving the physical function and delaying the cognitive decline of this population. The potential underlying mechanism was explored to determine the effects of TCQ on cognitive function via direct or indirect pathways.

The objective of this systematic review was to determine the effects of TCQ on cognitive and physical functions in older adults using meta-analysis, and to determine the impact of TCQ on cognitive function while controlling for physical function using a meta-regression approach.

A systematic search of 13 electronic databases (in English, Korean, and Chinese languages) identified 10,292 potentially eligible studies published between inception and May 2022. The bias in individual studies was assessed using the Cochrane Risk of Bias (version 2.0) tool. The heterogeneity of the studies was evaluated using a 95% prediction interval, and the meta-analysis and meta-regression were implemented using the Comprehensive Meta-Analysis (version 3) software.

Our search identified 17 randomized studies (n = 2,365, mean age = 70.3 years). The results of the meta-analysis that used a random-effects model indicated that TCQ had significant effects on both cognitive (Hedges' g = 0.29, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.17 to 0.42) and physical (Hedges' g = 0.32, 95% CI = 0.19 to 0.44) functions. We used meta-regression to explore the effect size of TCQ in association with physical function level. The regression model was significant (Q = 25.01, p = .070), and 55% of the heterogeneity was explained by physical function as a moderator variable. The effects of TCQ on cognitive function remained significant in this model when controlling for the effect of physical function (β = 0.46, p = .011).

This meta-regression of 17 randomized studies strongly suggests that TCQ has beneficial effects on physical and cognitive functions in older adults. The effect of TCQ on cognitive function remained significant after taking into account the significant effects of physical function as a moderator. The findings imply the potential health benefits of TCQ by promoting cognitive function in older adults directly and indirectly through enhancing physical function. PROSPERO REGISTRATION NUMBER: *PROSPERO international prospective register of systematic reviews, registration ID CRD42023394358.

Keywords: Cognitive function; Meta-analysis; Meta-regression; Older adults; Physical function; Tai Chi and Qigong.

PMID: 37280512 DOI: 10.1186/s12877-023-04070-2