Dr Mosley says ‘gentle’ movement to help your brain function

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Cognitive decline usually describes a difficulty with a person’s thinking, memory, concentration, and other brain functions. From brain foods to puzzles, there are various weapons you can add to your arsenal of protection against these brain changes. While exercise might be the last candidate you want to add to your to-do list, “gentle” movement could be enough to benefit your brain, according to Dr Michael Mosley. 

Running or going to the gym might require large amounts of energy, while also slicing large chunks of your time away.

However, not all exercises result in sweaty t-shirts and emptier bank accounts.

Speaking on his podcast Just One Thing, Dr Mosley said: “I’m in my garden, and I’m doing some gentle slow exercise that should not only improve my balance but may also benefit my immune system and my heart health.”

If the doctor didn’t have you at better immunity and heart health, you’ll be pleased to know that the movement could also help your brain “function better”.

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The exercise that Dr Mosley describes as a “gentle” and “slow” movement is Tai Chi – an ancient Chinese martial art.

Tai Chi details a series of different postures that are supposed to flow into each other.

Unlike running, Tai Chi is a low-impact exercise that only requires going through a series of motions named after animal actions, while you breath deeply and naturally.

“Because Tai Chi is a mix of exercise and meditation, your brain gets a workout, as well as your body,” the doctor said.

The podcast host even invited a Tai Chi expert Dr Parco Siu, from the University of Hong Kong, to get to the root of the exercise’s effects on the brain.

Dr Siu has studied the ancient martial art for years, with one of his studies discovering an improvement in cognitive function of older adults.

The doctor said: “We compared the practice of Tai Chi and conventional exercise, including aerobic exercise and muscle-strengthening activities, for 24 weeks.

“And in our study, we found that Tai Chi can actually induce greater and earlier improvements on global cognitive function and cognitive flexibility.”

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Cognitive function includes things like memory, mental flexibility and pretty much any action that allows you to function on a day-to-day basis.

What’s more, you can start seeing an improvement in these brain areas just after 12 weeks of practicing Tai Chi.

All you have to do is three hours of the exercise per week to reap these benefits, according to the podcast guest.

If that’s not enough to convince you to give it a go, Dr Siu shared that research also found actual changes in the brain after practising this gentle movement.

Dr Siu added: “There has been evidence from brain imaging studies suggesting that your brain would adapt at both the structural and functional levels.

“That has been shown in increases in the cortical thickness in the brain region related to cognitive function. 

“All this can preliminarily suggest that practising Tai Chi may help your brain to function better.” 

If you feel compelled to add the ancient practice to your routine, the doctor shared “it’s easy to do at home and you don’t even need to get changed”. Online videos and routines could help guide you to mastering this powerful exercise.

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