TAI CHI – Powerful Medicine…and So Much Fun!
By Cindy Paul
Tai Chi is the most-practiced group exercise in the entire world today. The benefits of practicing Tai Chi are practically endless. It helps your mental acuity, lowers your blood pressure and vastly increases your balance, just to name a few of its top advantages. Tai Chi can also reduce depression and aggression by improving your overall state of mind. It can help Parkinson’s disease, as well. Below is an explanation of how that works, taken from a study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
The ancient Chinese art characterized by slow controlled movements helped Parkinson’s patients with balance and control and resulted in fewer falls, when compared with other exercises. The findings were published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Lead author Dr Fuzhong Li, from the Oregon Research Institute, found a tailored program of twice-weekly Tai Chi training resulted in improved postural stability and walking ability, and fewer falls.
He said: “These results are clinically significant because they suggest that Tai Chi, a low-to-moderate impact exercise, may be used as an add-on to current physical therapies to address some of the key clinical problems in Parkinson’s disease, such as postural and gait instability.” Since many training features in the program are functionally oriented, the improvements in the balance and gait measures that we demonstrated highlight the potential of Tai Chi-based movements in rehabilitating patients with these types of problems and, consequently, easing cardinal symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and improving mobility, flexibility, balance, and range of motion.”
The study involved randomly assigning 195 patients to either Tai Chi, resistance training or stretching for one hour twice a week for 24 weeks. The Tai Chi group performed better in balance tests, had a longer stride length indicating better walking ability than the stretching group. And they were also better than the resistance training group on the balance and stride length measures. They were also significantly fewer falls in the Tai Chi group compared to the stretching group.
The number of falls was similar in the resistance training group as the Tai Qi group. Parkinson’s patients lose stability and have difficulty with everyday living as the disease progresses and exercise is thought to be important to help maintain independent living for as long as possible. The Tai Chi program developed by Dr Li consists of six Tai Chi movements integrated into an eight-form routine that focused on weight-shifting, controlled-displacement of the centre of gravity over the base of support, ankle sway, and front-to-back and sideways stepping.
Dr Li said: “There are a number of practical advantages to using Tai Chi to improve motor dysfunction of Parkinson’s disease – 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. Similarly, because of its simplicity, certain aspects of this Tai Chi program can also be prescribed to patients as a self-care/home activity.”
The longest-running Tai Chi program at Lakeside has been taught by Lonny Riddle for over twenty years. You can find details and directions here: http://www.donokaimartialarts.com/tai-chi.htm