Afflicted with Parkinson’s? Tai Chi will keep You Mobile

Posted by: admin on: May 10, 2012

Tai-Chi exercise regimen has found to benefit the mobility and balance in Parkinson’s afflicted patients. Read up to know more.


Tai chi, the Chinese exercise regimen based on slow, rhythmic body movements, can improve balance and reduce falls in people with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease, researchers say.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, U.S. researchers found that the regular practice of modified tai chi movements was more beneficial for people with Parkinson’s than either stretching or weight-resistance training on a number of measures.

The study involved 195 participants with Parkinson’s, who were randomly assigned to one of three exercise groups — tai chi, resistance training or stretching. Patients took part in 60-minute sessions twice a week for 24 weeks.

“After six months of training with tai chi, participants reported less falls compared to people in the stretching group, and there was no difference between the tai chi group and the resistance training,” said lead author Fuzhong Li, a senior research scientist at the Oregon Research Institute.

Tai chi was superior to stretching on all measures and outperformed resistance training for stride length and functional reach, two areas of movement that are impaired by the disease, the authors report.

While there is no cure and the disease is progressive, there are medications to help control symptoms, and people can live for years with the disease

“We always encourage exercise whether we have a disease or not,” said Li. “But for people with Parkinson’s disease, particularly early-stage, the study that we did really suggests that tai chi can maybe either prevent or help ease some of the movement disorders, ease the symptoms.

“So if you have a problem walking, with tai chi we show people walk better … and through tai chi they become more mobile … they get up quicker, walk faster, make more efficient turns and are able to sit down and complete mobility tests quicker.”

“It certainly is a promising finding,” Almeida said Wednesday from Waterloo, Ont.

“It is impressive that with only two sessions a week for 24 weeks that they were able to get some of the improvements that they’re making note of here.”

However, one question that needs answering is whether the effects of tai chi are specific to Parkinson’s or would the exercise bestow similar benefits on older people without the neurological disease, a group whose mobility and balance also diminish over time.

Still, there are secondary effects — cardiovascular disease, for instance — that can be prevented with exercise, he said, explaining that some people with Parkinson’s withdraw socially because of their symptoms.

“So when somebody chooses to stay within their home because they’re afraid that people are going to notice the tremor in their hand or … they don’t go out on the golf course anymore … cardiovascular and other sorts of issues start to develop because of being inactive.”

Li said the study participants doing tai chi had improvements over the 24-week exercise period, and when researchers assessed the patients three months later, those benefits had persisted.

But that doesn’t mean the improvements would continue to be maintained: the program needs to be kept up, he said.

“I would like to see this as a lifelong exercise program, as an integral part of disease management.”


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