Tai Chi brings benefits for people with dementia

Summary: Tai Chi improved quality of life and reduced falls in older people with dementia.

Source: Bournemouth University

Bournemouth University research has found that Tai Chi brings positive health benefits to older people with dementia.

The TACIT Trial looked at the benefits that Tai Chi can bring for people with dementia, specifically looking at whether Tai Chi could prevent falls and improve quality of live.

Dr Samuel Nyman, a Principal Academic at Bournemouth University, led the study and said, “We were really interested to see if Tai Chi improves balance and prevents falls among people with dementia. This is an important issue because people with dementia are twice as likely to fall, and twice as likely to have injuries as a result of falls.”

This shows people doing tai chi
Those who had followed a programme of Tai Chi maintained a good quality of life, whereas those in the control group had a decline in life quality over the same period. The image is in the public domain.

The research took a control group, who carried out normal activities, and measured them alongside a group of a similar make up who all undertook a six month Tai Chi programme.

The research, published in Clinical Interventions in Aging found that those who had followed a programme of Tai Chi maintained a good quality of life, whereas those in the control group had a decline in life quality over the same period.

Dr Nyman continues, “We found that those who did Tai Chi really enjoyed the classes and meeting up with others who have dementia and their family carers. We found Tai Chi to be an incredibly safe and gentle exercise, and family carers were happy to support their loved ones with the classes and home practice. Although we found no improvements in scores on balance tests, there was a strong trend for those in the Tai Chi group to have fewer falls.”

Credit: Bournemouth University.

The study was carried out across the South of England, with Tai Chi sessions in Dorset, Southampton and Portsmouth.

There are plans to continue the research with a larger study that will seek to prove through more data that Tai Chi does prevent falls, specifically in people with dementia. It will also seek to understand how exactly Tai Chi does reduce falls.

Funding: Dr Samuel Nyman was funded by a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Career Development Fellowship for this research project, and supported by Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, and Solent NHS and several other local organisations. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

About this neuroscience research article

Bournemouth University
Media Contacts:
Samuel Nyman – Bournemouth University
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Closed access
“Randomised Controlled Trial Of The Effect Of Tai Chi On Postural Balance Of People With Dementia”. Samuel Nyman et al.
Clinical Interventions in Aging doi:10.2147/CIA.S228931.


Randomised Controlled Trial Of The Effect Of Tai Chi On Postural Balance Of People With Dementia

Purpose: To investigate the effect of Tai Chi exercise on postural balance among people with dementia (PWD) and the feasibility of a definitive trial on falls prevention.

Patients and methods: Dyads, comprising community-dwelling PWD and their informal carer (N=85), were randomised to usual care (n=43) or usual care plus weekly Tai Chi classes and home practice for 20 weeks (n=42). The primary outcome was the timed up and go test. All outcomes for PWD and their carers were assessed six months post-baseline, except for falls, which were collected prospectively over the six-month follow-up period.

Results: For PWD, there was no significant difference at follow-up on the timed up and go test (mean difference [MD] = 0.82, 95% confidence interval [CI] = −2.17, 3.81). At follow-up, PWD in the Tai Chi group had significantly higher quality of life (MD = 0.051, 95% CI = 0.002, 0.100, standardised effect size [ES] = 0.51) and a significantly lower rate of falls (rate ratio = 0.35, 95% CI =0.15, 0.81), which was no longer significant when an outlier was removed. Carers in the Tai Chi group at follow-up were significantly worse on the timed up and go test (MD = 1.83, 95% CI = 0.12, 3.53, ES = 0.61). The remaining secondary outcomes were not significant. No serious adverse events were related to participation in Tai Chi.

Conclusion: With refinement, this Tai Chi intervention has potential to reduce the incidence of falls and improve quality of life among community-dwelling PWD [Trial registration: NCT02864056].

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