October 1, 2023


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Still Walking? Simple Exercise That Can Stave Off Dementia by Reducing Diabetes-Related Brain Damage

3 min read

Simple moves that can enhance your cognitive function and reduce the likelihood of developing dementia better than fitness walking.

According to estimates, diabetes affects between 5% to 10% of the global population, with the majority of those affected (95%) having type 2 diabetes mellitus. In 2019 alone, an estimated 463 million people were living with diabetes.

Alarming data shows that over the past 25 years, the prevalence of diabetes has doubled in men and increased by 60% in women.

A ray of hope shines for individuals battling with Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) as researchers from Fujian University of Traditional Chinese Medicine suggest that Tai Chi Chuan, a popular mind-body exercise that blends physical movement and meditative practices, could be a potentially effective exercise program in reducing the effects of these conditions.

Their study found that a 24-form simplified Tai Chi Chuan program resulted in improved cognitive function and physical markers in individuals with T2D and MCI compared to those who participated in a traditional fitness walking program over a period of 36 weeks.

This indicates that Tai Chi Chuan might prove to be a useful tool in mitigating the effects of T2D and MCI, which can ultimately lead to dementia.

The study’s results have been published in JAMA Network Open.

In a study spanning 36 weeks, the group that engaged in Tai Chi Chuan exhibited more significant enhancements in both biomarkers and cognitive function compared to the fitness walking and control groups.

While no notable differences were observed between the groups at the 24-week checkpoint, the findings indicate that visible improvements may require a longer duration of practice.

It appears that Tai Chi Chuan may be a promising approach for improving health and cognitive function over time.

According to the study, all study groups were provided with an educational seminar focused on managing Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). The seminar emphasized the importance of following a healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise to improve the condition. After the seminar, participants in all study groups, except for the control group, were instructed to engage in Tai Chi Chuan or fitness walking three times a week. The exercise sessions lasted for 60 minutes each and were supervised by a medical health professional.

Over the course of the 36-week study, the participants’ baseline metabolic markers, such as fasted blood glucose levels, were assessed at the beginning, 24-week mark, and 36-week mark. Additionally, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) was used to gauge cognitive function on a global scale, with a higher score indicating better cognitive function.

The results showed that the Tai Chi Chuan group had a significant improvement of 3.29 points in MoCA score compared to their baseline, whereas the fitness walking group only showed an improvement of 2.32 points. Furthermore, the rate of improvement in the fitness walking group decreased significantly between the 24 and 36-week periods, with a decrease of -0.68 points compared to the Tai Chi Chuan group’s much smaller decrease of 0.29 points.

To lower the risk of dementia development in older persons with T2D and MCI, the researchers want to create a more scientifically supported Tai Chi Chuan program.

Further extensive research is required to achieve this objective. One limitation of the study is that the follow-up time post-study was limited, which fails to shed light on the long-term impacts of this treatment. Additionally, the educational sessions on physical activity received by both exercise groups could have introduced a bias to the study. Nevertheless, the compliance rate with the exercises after the study was reported to be high by the researchers.

To gain deeper insights into the potential benefits of Tai Chi Chuan, according to the authors, future studies should consider exploring its effects on a larger sample size with fewer constraints. This may offer a broader perspective that can be applied to a more diverse population beyond the original study’s narrow criteria, contributing to the physical and cognitive well-being of various groups of individuals.

Image Credit: Getty


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