Effects of Tai Chi and Western exercise on physical and cognitive functioning in healthy community-dwelling older adults.

 OBJECTIVE: To compare the effects of Tai Chi (TC, n = 37) and Western exercise (WE, n = 39) with an attention-control group (C, n = 56) on physical and cognitive functioning in healthy adults age 69 +/- 5.8 yr, in a 2-phase randomized trial.
METHODS: TC and WE involved combined class and home-based protocols. Physical functioning included balance, strength, flexibility, and cardiorespiratory endurance. Cognitive functioning included semantic fluency and digit-span tests. Data were analyzed using intention-to-treat analysis.
RESULTS: At 6 mo, WE had greater improvements in upper body flexibility (F = 4.67, p = .01) than TC and C. TC had greater improvements in balance (F = 3.36, p = .04) and a cognitive-function measure (F = 7.75, p < .001) than WE and C. The differential cognitive-function improvements observed in TC were maintained through 12 mo.
CONCLUSION: The TC and WE interventions resulted in differential improvements in physical functioning among generally healthy older adults. TC led to improvement in an indicator of cognitive functioning that was maintained through 12 mo.