A new study conducted by the Oregon Research Institute suggests that the practice of Tai Chi may provide a number of different benefits to patients suffering from mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease. The four-year study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and followed 195 patients who participated in different forms of low-impact exercise.
Participants in the study were randomly assigned to groups that did stretching, resistance training or Tai Chi. Participants did 60 minutes of exercise two times per week over. People in the group that practiced Tai Chi were less likely to experience falls, and also performed better in tests that measured balance and directional control of the body. Members of the Tai Chi group were also able to walk with a longer stride.
In addition to being a low-impact form of exercise, the study showed that Tai Chi can help improve mobility, flexibility and balance, thus easing the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Exercise is an important part of treating the disease because previous research has shown that physical activity can slow the progress of symptoms.
The results of the study were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. “There are a number of practical advantages to using Tai Chi to improve motor dysfunction of Parkinson’s disease,” said lead researcher Fushong Li, Ph.D. “it is a low cost activity that does not require equipment, it can be done anywhere, at any time, and the movements can be easily learned. It can also be incorporated into a rehabilitation setting as part of existing treatment.”
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