Mind-Body Exercises as an Intervention for Improving Executive Functioning: A Systematic Review of RCTs

Author: Nera Martin
Conference/Journal: Adv Mind Body Med
Date published: 2024 May 25
Other: Volume ID: 28 , Issue ID: 1 , Pages: 20-30 , Word Count: 291

Executive function (EF) is essential for a myriad of functional tasks where deficits in EF can impair school/career success, relationship quality, and overall life satisfaction. As such, interventions for improving EF are crucial. Research on utilizing mindfulness-body exercise (MBE) as an intervention for deficits in executive function (EF) is quickly accumulating. However, no consensus has been reached as to the mechanisms involved, which is consequential in the disparate results found for the efficacy of MBE in improving EF. As such, a review of the literature on the impact of three major MBEs on EF is needed. This review aims to systematically detail the current research investigating MBE as an intervention for improving EF in adults and to discuss proposed mechanisms to anchor future research in this area.

A comprehensive search through PubMed, MEDLINE, ERIC, and PsycINFO was performed. Inclusion criteria for studies included in this review consisted of randomized control trials testing either Qi Gong, tai chi, or yoga as an intervention for improving EF in adults. Studies were excluded if they did not use two or more measures of core EF's, did not examine MBE, and were not published in English. Measurements of EF consist of either multiple core components or a higher-order function.

Thirty-two studies fit the criteria and are presented. A majority of the research reports MBE had a positive effect on EF. Possible mechanisms, observations, and directions for future research are then described.

This review demonstrates the effectiveness of MBE as a treatment option for improving EF, where MBE should be considered as a treatment option for individuals with deficits in EF. Future research should aim to ascertain the components and duration of MBE interventions that provide the greatest benefit.

PMID: 38787683