COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

A 1-year randomized controlled trial comparing mind body exercise (Tai Chi) with stretching and toning exercise on cognitive function in older Chinese adults at risk of cognitive decline

Linda C W Lam, Rachel C M Chau, Billy M L Wong, Ada W T Fung, Cindy W C Tam, Grace T Y Leung, Timothy C Y Kwok, Tony Y S Leung, Sammy P Ng, Wai M Chan
Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 2012, 13 (6): 568.e15-20
22579072

OBJECTIVES: To compare the effectiveness of Chinese-style mind-body exercise (24 forms simplified Tai Chi) versus stretching and toning exercise in the maintenance of cognitive abilities in Chinese elders at risk of cognitive decline.

DESIGN: A 1-year single-blind cluster randomized controlled trial.

SETTINGS: Community centers and residential homes for elders in Hong Kong.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 389 subjects at risk of cognitive decline (Clinical Dementia Rating, CDR 0.5 or amnestic-MCI) participated in an exercise intervention program.

INTERVENTION: A total of 171 subjects were trained with Tai Chi (Intervention [I]) and 218 were trained with stretching and toning exercise (Control [C]).

METHODS: Cognitive and functional performance were assessed at the baseline, and at 5, 9, and 12 months. Data were analyzed using multilevel mixed models. Primary outcomes included progression to clinical dementia as diagnosed by DSM-IV criteria, and change of cognitive and functional scores. Secondary outcomes included postural balance measured by the Berg Balance Scale neuropsychiatric and mood symptoms measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, and Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia.

RESULTS: At 1 year, 92 (54%) and 169 (78%) participants of the I and C groups completed the intervention. Multilevel logistic regression with completers-only analyses controlled for baseline differences in education revealed that the I group had a trend for lower risk of developing dementia at 1 year (odds ratio 0.21, 95% CI 0.05-0.92, P = .04). The I group had better preservation of CDR sum of boxes scores than the C group in both intention-to-treat (P = .04) and completers-only analyses (P = .004). In completers-only analyses, the I group had greater improvement in delay recall (P = .05) and Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia scores (P = .02).

CONCLUSION: Regular exercise, especially mind-body exercise with integrated cognitive and motor coordination, may help with preservation of global ability in elders at risk of cognitive decline; however, logistics to promote long-term practice and optimize adherence needs to be revisited.

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