The project, called The TACIT Trial: TAi ChI for people with demenTia, aims to test whether tai chi is of benefit to people with dementia, and of benefit for their carers.
Dr Samuel Nyman, a NIHR Career Development Fellow at Bournemouth University, is leading the study. He said, “For those taking part in the TACIT Trial, they will be helping with an exciting research area; this is the first trial of Tai Chi with people with dementia in the UK. It is also the first trial in the world to include assessments to see how Tai Chi might help with people with dementia’s balance and help prevent them from falling.”
The trial is now recruiting, looking for people with dementia and their carers to sign up to further research, and to reap the health benefits that tai chi can provide.
Dr Nyman continues, “Tai Chi is something a few years ago people may not have heard anything about. Tai Chi is particularly suited for people with dementia given it is highly accessible – anyone can do it! Because it is very slow, gentle, and repetitive, people of all shapes and sizes and different abilities can do it. Even just by doing the very easy warm-up moves you can benefit from it.
“From a pilot study we did in 2016, participants were telling us they felt stronger and more confident to go out of the house on their own or to do gardening, feeling better from having done exercise, and a sense of achievement of having learnt something new.”
The aim is for researchers to better understand the benefits that Tai Chi can bring. Participants will be asked to undertake a 20 week Tai Chi exercise programme under the watch of Bournemouth University’s research team, while others, part of a control group, will be asked to continue with their normal NHS treatment. Participants will then be compared to see if Tai Chi can have positive effects for people with dementia.
Dr Nyman concludes, “It is a very slow, gentle, calming form of exercise. By slowing down – moving slowly and taking slightly longer breaths – it is very relaxing and a real ‘de-stressor’. It also helps build up strength and coordination that we lose over the years. The course is very easy to follow with lots of repetition. In fact that’s why we called it ‘TACIT’; we’re building on people’s tacit memory – things you learn by repetition and then do automatically – and people with dementia tend to retain this ability very well despite difficulties with other types of memory.”
Classes will be held across the south – from Dorset and Southampton to Eastleigh and Portsmouth.
For more information, visit the project website.