The effect of mind-body exercises, such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong has become a growing area of research. Although there are variations among these types of exercise, all practices involve physical postures, mental control, conscious breathing, meditation and mindfulness. Yoga, tai chi, and qigong have been shown to have positive effects in many areas of physical and mental health, such as improved respiration (Bezerra et al., 2014; Jahnke, Larkey, Rogers, , Etnier, & Lin, 2010), cardiovascular health (Toblanos & Mas Hesse, 2014) , increased muscle strength (Jahnke et al., 2010; Khan, Marlow, & Head, 2008), and reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety (Krishnamurthy & Telles, 2007; Mullur, Khodnapur, Bagali, Aithala, & Dhanakshirur, 2014; Wollery, Myers, Sternlieb, & Zeltzer, 2004). Additionally, many yoga, tai chi, and qigong practitioners report improved quality of life associated with their practice (Kelley & Kelley, 2015). The practices can be used with a wide variety of populations and can be modified to meet different ability levels. For example, tai chi and yoga programs have been developed for patients with Parkinson’s disease (Ghaffari & Kluger, 2014). Research evidence suggests that these mind-body practices can help maintain or even improve cognitive performance in a wide-variety of samples. In some cases, the cognitive effect of mind-body exercise was greater than the effect of other types of physical exercise such as stretching-strengthening (Gothe, Kramer, & McAuley, 2014). Understanding how mind-body exercises can impact cognitive performance is an interesting question for researchers and could become a valuable intervention for clinicians to recommend to patients.
ABSTRACT: Gothe, N.P. & McAuley, E. (2015). Yoga and Cognition: A Meta-Analysis of Chronic and Acute Effects. Psychosomatic Medicine, 77 (7), 784-797. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26186435
OBJECTIVES: To review and synthesize the existing literature on the effects of yoga on cognitive function by determining effect sizes that could serve as a platform to design, calculate statistical power, and implement future studies. METHODS: Through electronic databases, we identified acute studies and randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of yoga that reported cognitive outcomes. Inclusion criteria included the following: use of an objective measure of cognition and sufficient data reported to estimate an effect size. The meta-analysis was conducted using Comprehensive Meta-Analysis software. A random-effects model was used to calculate the overall weighted effect sizes, expressed as Hedge g. RESULTS: Fifteen RCTs and 7 acute exposure studies examined the effects of yoga on cognition. A moderate effect (g = 0.33, standard error = 0.08, 95% confidence interval = 0.18-0.48, p < .001) of yoga on cognition was observed for RCTs, with the strongest effect for attention and processing speed (g = 0.29, p < .001), followed by executive function (g = 0.27, p = .001) and memory (g = 0.18, p = .051). Acute studies showed a stronger overall effect of yoga on cognition (g = 0.56, standard error = 0.11, 95% confidence interval = 0.33-0.78, p < .001). The effect was strongest for memory (g = 0.78, p < .001), followed by attention and processing speed measures (g = 0.49, p < .001) and executive functions (g = 0.39, p < .003). CONCLUSIONS: Yoga practice seems to be associated with moderate improvements in cognitive function. Although the studies are limited by sample size, heterogeneous population characteristics, varied doses of yoga interventions, and a myriad of cognitive tests, these findings warrant rigorous systematic RCTs and well-designed counterbalanced acute studies to comprehensively explore yoga as a means to improve or sustain cognitive abilities across the life span.
PODCAST/WEBINAR: Qigong and Tai Chi- 1st International Tai Chi Chuan Symposium
(Primer about Qigong and Tai Chi; discussing some of the topics presented at the 1st International Tai Chi Chuan Symposium in 2014).
1) Wayne, P.M., Walsh, J.N., Taylor-Pilae, R.E., Wells, R.E., Papp, K.V., Donovan, N.J., & Yeh, G.Y. (2014). Effect of tai chi on cognitive performance in older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 62(1), 25-39.http://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.12611
2) Jahnke, R., Larkey, L., Rogers, C., Etnier, J., & Lin, F. (2010). A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. American Journal of Health Promotion, 24(6), e1:-e25. http://doi.org/10.4278/ajhp.081013-LIT-248.
3) Yin, S., Zhu, X., Li, R., Niu, Y., Wang, B., Zheng, Z., Huang, X., Huo, L., & Li, J. (2014). Intervention-induced enhancement in intrinsic brain activity in healthy older adults. Scientific Reports, 4, 7309. http://doi.org/10.1038/srep07309.
4) Sachdeva, A., Kumar, K., & Anand, K.S. (2015). Non-pharmalogical cognitive enhancers- current perspectives. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, 9(7), VE01-VE06. http://doi.org//10.7860/JCDR/2015/13392.6186.
5) Gothe, N.P., Kramer, A.F., & McAuley, E. (2014). The effects of an 8-weel Hatha yoga intervention on executive function in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 69(9), 1109-1116. http://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glu095.