An elderly Asian couple practicing tai chi outside.

Tai Chi for Seniors: Enhancing Cognitive Function & Mental Clarity

Movement is essential for our bodies, especially as we age. Choosing a form of exercise can be difficult, however, especially if you’re struggling with mobility. Tai Chi, a gentle and intentional Chinese martial art, is one of the best exercises for seniors. It’s incredibly accessible for people of all abilities, and its health benefits aren’t just physical.

Evidence from multiple scientific studies shows that tai chi also has many cognitive benefits. These include improvements in executive function, overall cognitive function, and sleep. Tai chi is all about relaxation and coordination, and these have great effects on our bodies and our brains.

Cognitive Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors

Tai chi is a slow, low-impact exercise that requires no extra equipment. This makes it very accessible for almost everyone. This ancient Chinese martial art originated as early as the 8th century and focuses on balance and breath. There are many cognitive and mental benefits of tai chi for seniors.

Depression and Anxiety

Mental health struggles are not uncommon in the elderly, and tai chi is an effective way to combat depression and anxiety. Studies have found that tai chi can significantly improve the symptoms of depression in middle-aged and older adults. Evidence also shows that tai chi, particularly Yang style, can alleviate anxiety symptoms. The mindfulness inherent to tai chi is an excellent stress reliever.

Executive Function

Evidence gathered from many scientific studies shows that tai chi can lead to significant improvement in executive function. This term refers to a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. We use these skills daily to complete tasks, communicate, and focus.

Global Cognition

The same collection of studies also shows that tai chi can lead to significant improvement in global cognition. Global cognition refers to overall cognitive function. This includes skills like orientation, attention, working memory, memory, language, and visuospatial skills.


Tai chi has also been positively associated with improvement in working memory skills. Cognitive decline is a normal part of aging, but working memory can be improved through training or practice. In fact, physical interventions such as tai chi might be more helpful for working memory than cognitive treatments.


Lastly, tai chi has been shown to moderately improve sleep issues in seniors. According to doctors, tai chi can be seen as an alternative approach to insomnia. Multiple studies have demonstrated sustained improvement in sleep following the adoption of a regular tai chi routine.

Physical Benefits of Tai Chi for Seniors

A group of seniors practicing tai chi outside.

We would be remiss if we did not also mention the many positive effects tai chi can have on one’s physical health.

  • Balance: Tai chi helps improve balance and reduce falls, particularly for seniors with Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Pain Relief: Studies show that patients with chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis experienced symptom relief with tai chi.
  • Cardiovascular Health: Adults with hypertension who practiced tai chi for 6 months had lower blood pressure and lower BMIs than those not practicing. Additionally, many other measures of cardiovascular function have shown improvement from tai chi.
  • Lower Fracture Risk: Tai chi can improve bone density and other physiological factors that lower one’s fracture risk.
  • Improved Immune System: Antibodies and immune responses have been demonstrably higher after practicing tai chi.
Tai Chi Exercises for Seniors

Tai chi is an ancient martial art that is full of mental and physical health benefits. One of the best parts of tai chi is how accessible it is. Beginning tai chi for seniors is as simple as finding a video on YouTube. All you need is an open mind and some comfortable clothes to start.

As a reminder, we always recommend consulting your doctor before you start a new exercise routine.

If you’d like to know what you’re getting into before committing to a whole workout, we get it. Try these simple tai chi moves for seniors from Healthline. These simple movements will increase your balance, flexibility, and stamina while improving your mental clarity, mood, and cognitive function.

Movement is one of our favorite things about the resident experience here at The Moments. Staying active is key to both mental and physical wellness. We believe in person-centered care that enriches lives. That is the core tenet of how we’re reimagining memory care in the community.

Learn more about enhanced assisted living at The Moments.

Published On: March 26, 2024