Patients often ask if there anything can be done to treat Alzheimer’s disease. We have already reviewed that non-traditional therapies, like Reiki, Acupuncture, or Chakra Meditation may actually help with freezing, and sometimes preventing, the Alzheimer’s Disease in people with high risk of the condition development. The new research has also demonstrated that Tai Chi and Qi Gong can also help in lowering the risk of the Alzheimer’s development with characteristic symptoms.
Qi Gong and Tai Chi are traditional Chinese exercises that improve circulation and energy flow through the meridians. Acupuncture can be used to stimulate circulation of energy in the meridians and doing Tai Qi is like giving yourself acupuncture to all your acupuncture points!
The latest research shows that Tai Chi can increase the brain size. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published the article recently and released the findings of Professor James Mortimer of the University of South Florida. What is interesting about the research is that walking as an exercise when compared to Tai Chi does not increase brain size though it does slow down the rate of digression.
Research also shows that Tai Chi can improve the memory whereas walking does not. Tai Chi also improved verbal fluency, hearing ability and improved concentration and attention span.
There is no effective Western medical treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Tai Chi can be taken up by nearly anyone of any health status and age group.
Another recent study at the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia, University of California, suggests that practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong may promote brain plasticity and stimulate neurogenesis. This can be considered as a trigger, activating molecular and cellular cascades that support and maintain brain plasticity. Significantly, these effects occur in the hippocampus, a brain region central to learning and memory.
While research shows substantial prevention capabilities, Tai Chi and Qi Gong were proven to provide an effective group exercise for people who already have dementia, which can be practiced either standing or seated. It is an integrated mind-body practice which can be suitable for all levels of dementia when presented by an instructor who is sensitive to the particular abilities of each individual.
A joint study of the Occupational Therapy Department at Cornhill and Alzheimer Scotland created study group and performed detailed investigation on the positive impact of the Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercises for elderly patients on early stages of the Alzheimer’s development. The findings of the Cornhill study indicated that this program of movements could help to maintain and even improve bi-lateral co-ordination, proprioception, concentration, spatial awareness and skilled movement. It was also noted that a sense of self awareness, confidence, relaxation and social skills were enhanced.
The principle of central equilibrium (Zhong Ding) is employed to aid balance and to teach folk not to reach too far out of their base, thus helping also to prevent falls. Intent (Yi) can be significant in the practice of the moves as each posture and weight change requires concentration and focus. The use of mental focus enhances kinaesthetic sense, the ability to sense muscular movement and position. Specific Internal Arts training sets concentrate on the three planes of movement, which may link into the vestibular system. Qigong also develops spatial awareness and proprioception, the internal sense of awareness of parts of the body and their relative position in space.
Observed improvements from Qigong come not only from the physical exercises but also because people who have a diagnosis of dementia can discover an enhanced sense of personal freedom. With this realization and growing confidence often comes a sense of fun! Conversation and memories start to flow and it becomes abundantly clear that our essential Spirit (Shen) remains with us always.
Awareness of the breath, opening and closing the joints, moving in alignment with the energy channels all promote concentration, balance and mindfulness. These are skills that we as practitioners aspire to incorporate in every move. But do we engage fully? There is long list of benefits to be gained from practicing Qigong and Tai Chi with people who have dementia.
The similar results were obtained from the new study performed in the University of Illinois.
“Most of the research on dementia and most of the dollars up until this point have gone into pharmacological interventions,” said Sandy Burgener, a professor of nursing at the University of Illinois and lead author on the study. “But we have evidence now from studies like mine that show that other approaches can make a difference in the way people live and can possibly also impact their cognitive function.”
In the study, 24 people with early stage dementia participated in an intensive 40-week program. The intervention included biweekly sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy and support groups, along with three sessions per week of traditional Chinese martial arts exercises and meditation, Qi Gong and Tai Chi.
A comparison group of people with early stage dementia did not participate in these programs for the first 20 weeks of the intervention.
Researchers are discovering that multidiscliplinary approaches – those that address patients’ physical, mental and psychological dimensions – show the most promise in treating people with dementia, Burgener said.
Participants in the program benefited in a variety of ways. After 20 weeks, those in the treatment group improved in several measures of physical function, including balance and lower leg strength, while those in the comparison group did not. There were also positive cognitive and psychological effects, Burgener said.
“We saw gains in self-esteem in the treatment group and pretty severe declines in self-esteem in the comparison group,” she said. “Those in the treatment group also had sustained and slightly improved mental status scores, which meant we were impacting cognitive function.”
Both groups saw increases in depression, Burgener said, but the increase for those in the treatment group was a fraction of that seen in the comparison group.
Main Health Benefits and Effects of Qi Gong and Tai Chi
1. Improve the motion of blood, warm the blood and enhance the whole body circulation.
2. Stimulate appetite, enhance sexual function, assimilation of nutrients and digestion.
3. Accelerate metabolism, promote weight loss, increase oxygen uptake rates, lower body fat percentages, and improve quality of sleep.
4. Bolster the Immune System by reducing cortisol, a known inhibitor of cytokine production.
5. Develop, reflex, and prevent Osteoporosis in clinical studies.
6. Open arteries allowing greater brain-based microcirculation to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
7. Enhance mental acuity, focus, concentration, and balance. The Qi draws focus and trains the mind.
8. Help us to calm down, relax and become more peaceful. Address anxiety and depression natural way.
9. Activate immune system response and enhance endocrine functions.
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