I imagine all of us have or have had a loved one who has suffered from memory loss and declining cognitive function. The prevalence and severity of the present Alzheimer’s and Dementia epidemic are frightening.
Here are a few factoids from the Alzheimer’s Association:
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US.
1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
This calendar year, it is projected that Alzheimer’s and Dementia will cost the nation $277 billion. By 2050, those costs will rise to $11
Presently 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. That number is expected to nearly triple by 2050, to a staggering 14 million.
There is a great deal of research into the causes and possible prevention of this devastating disease.
A consensus is emerging that lifestyle factors, such as nutrition and exercise, both contribute as a cause and can serve to protect against its development.
But, what form of exercise is most effective? Aerobic training such as walking, running, or cycling? Or could strength training or some other modality be more effective?
While the data are still inconclusive about whether one approach is decisively better than another, it’s safe to assert that any approach is better than inactivity.
While looking into this I was fascinated to find that the ancient practice of Tai Chi appears to be quite effective at preserving or improving our memory and cognitive ability.
I came across an interesting study that compared walking briskly (a form of moderate aerobic training) to practicing Tai Chi. The researchers asserted that…
These findings demonstrated that regular participation in brisk walking and Tai Chi have significant beneficial effects on executive function and fitness. However, due to the high cognitive demands of the exercise, Tai Chi benefits cognitive functions in older adults more than brisk walking does.
How interesting! “The high cognitive demands of the exercise” are found to be more beneficial to cognitive executive function than moderate aerobic training, at least from this one study.
Even more encouraging, Tai Chi has been shown to have several additional advantages such as measurably improving our balance, facilitating improved positive affect (mood and general outlook on life), and helping to foster a sense of calm and peace of mind. It has been likened to “mindfulness in motion” or “movement meditation”.
For any of us who hope to preserve and improve our memory, cognitive faculties, balance, or state of mind it sure seems like a solid investment of our time.