Tai chi is an ancient Chinese exercise utilized both for self defense as well as promoting health. It wasn’t until recent times when the West thoroughly studies the martial art to deeply examine the health benefits it may produce. Until now, the Chinese have used tai chi to heal a number of ailments — even without the current influx of scientific data to back the practice up. Although it may be utilized for many specific reasons, recent research showed that the slow, controlled motions of tai chi can improve balance and lower the risk of falls in those suffering from mild or moderate Parkinson’s disease. What’s more, the improvements lasted for three months after the implementation of the Chinese exercise.
The study, led by Fuzhong Li of the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, involved 195 participants with mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease. Each participant was instructed to attend one of three classes that met two times a week for one hour sessions. One class was tai chi, one was a stretching class, and one involved resistance training. Although all the participants could stand on their own, some needed assistance from devices to help them walk.
Each person started out with similar 64-point scores out of 100 possible points which measured how far they could lean or shift their center of gravity without taking a fall.
After a six month time period, those who attended the tai chi classes did significantly better than those attending the stretching or resistance training classes. Tai chi attendees outdid the stretching group in balance, control, walking, and other measures while outperforming the resistance training group in balance, control, and stride. Tai chi proved in reducing more falls than the stretching group, but was just as effective in that respect as the resistance training group. The stretching group saw a reduction in points by 2 on average while scores typically rose by 4 points in the resistance training group and 10 points among the tai chi practitioners.
Three months after the study’s conclusion those who practiced tai chi had 60 percent fewer falls than the resistance training group and 69 percent fewer falls than the stretching group. Since tai chi is simple to learn and requires no special equipment, it is easy to practice for those looking to improve not only Parkinson’s disease, but overall health as well.
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