Positive effects of brisk walking and Tai Chi on cognitive function in older adults: An fNIRS study


Exercise has shown to have beneficial effects on cognition in older adults. The purpose of this study was to investigate the cortical hemodynamic responses during the word-color Stroop test (WCST) prior and after acute walking and Tai Chi exercise by functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). Twenty participants (9 males, mean age 62.8 ± 5.2), first underwent a baseline WCST test, after which they took three WCST tests in a randomized order, (a) after sitting rest (control), (b) after 6 minutes performing Tai Chi Quan, and (c) after a bout of 6 minutes brisk walking. During these four WCST tests cortical hemodynamic changes in the prefrontal area were monitored with fNIRS. Both brisk walking and Tai Chi enhanced hemodynamic activity during the Stroop incongruent tasks, leading to improved cognitive performance (quicker reaction time). Brisk walking induced a greater hemodynamic activity in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC) area, whereas Tai Chi induced a greater bilateral hemodynamic activity in the DLPFC and VLPFC areas. The present study provided empirical evidence of enhanced hemodynamic response in task- specific regions of the brain that can be achieved by a mere six minutes of brisk walking or Tai Chi in older adults.

Physiology & Behavior