A recent article published by American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias described a study guided by Sandy Burgener, a professor of nursing at the University of Illinois and lead author on the study. 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, called qigong (chee-gong) and Taiji (tye-jee).
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.”