Saturday, May 17, 2014

Tai Chi Improves Ability to Perform Complex Tasks

A recent study shows that tai chi practitioners are more able to perform complex tasks that combine physical and cognitive challenges than non-practitioners. The study looked at older experienced tai chi practitioners and healthy controls. The practitioners were mostly in their 70's.
The first challenge was to step down from a 19 cm (7.5 inch) platform and maintain a single-leg stance for 10 seconds. After that challenge was evaluated, the participants were asked to perform the same step while responding to a cognitive challenge called an auditory Stroop test. They were required to respond to the tone of voice regardless of the actual words. The primary outcome measure was postural stability, with other outcomes also measured.
There was a significant difference in the measures between the two groups. The authors said, "… the auditory Stroop test showed that Tai Chi practitioners achieved not only significantly less error rate in single-task, but also significantly faster reaction time in dual-task, when compared with healthy controls similar in age and other relevant demographics. 

Similarly, the stepping-down task showed that Tai Chi practitioners not only displayed significantly less COP sway area in single-task, but also significantly less COP sway path than healthy controls in dual-task. These results showed that Tai Chi practitioners achieved better postural stability after stepping down as well as better performance in auditory response task than healthy controls. The improved performance that was magnified by dual motor-cognitive task performance may point to the benefits of Tai Chi being a mind-and-body exercise."
The study was published in: Eur J Appl Physiol. 2013 Mar 14. By Lu X, Siu KC, Fu SN, et al. from Dept of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China. 
© 2014  by Eric Borreson