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USF, Chinese researchers say tai chi can give you a bigger brain

Posted Jun 20, 2012 by Lindsay Peterson

Updated Jun 20, 2012 at 11:14 AM

Here’s a recipe for brain health. A nice quiet round of tai chi followed by a stimulating discussion.

Sounds too easy, but researchers from USF and Fudan University in Shanghai published the evidence in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease yesterday.

It’s more validation of the “use it or lose it” admonition, James Mortimer, epidemiology professor at the USF College of Public Health, said in a USF News release.

What’s nice and new about this study is that it showed that you don’t have to pound on a treadmill everyday to see results. Not that tai chi’s easy, but it is easier on the knees.

The researchers in the study divided a group of 120 people into four groups. And for about 10 months, one did tai chi, another met for discussion, another group walked and another didn’t do anything.

You can find the details here.

And the results? The people who did tai chi and participated in regular, lively discussion groups actually increased their brain size and performed better on tests of memory and thinking.

The cognitive improvement was the greatest in the tai chiers.

Walking didn’t have much of an effect on either brain size or thinking.

The brains of the participants who did nothing shrank, as the brains of older people tend to do as their ability to think declines.

As always, there’s more to be learned about this. Researchers have seen that aerobic exercise is associated with an in increase in brain growth factors, Mortimer said.

It’s not clear from this whether the non-aerobic tai chi does the same. But someone is surely working on it.

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