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Parkinson's Disease Health Center

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Tai Chi Improves Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Study: Tai Chi Leads to Smoother, Steadier Movements, Longer Strides, and Fewer Falls Compared to Other Types of Exercise

Tai Chi Comes Out Tops continued...

Like resistance training, tai chi helped people walk more swiftly, get up from a chair more quickly, and increased leg strength.

Perhaps the most impressive benefit of tai chi, however, was related to falls. Falls are common in people with Parkinson’s, and they can cause serious injuries, including fractures and concussions. Studies show falls are the main cause of hospitalizations in Parkinson’s patients. People in the tai chi group reported half the number of falls compared to those who were taking resistance training and two-thirds fewer falls than people who were doing light stretching exercises.

The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Mind-Body Benefit?

“This is a very encouraging study,” says Chenchen Wang, MD, Msc, a rheumatologist and associate professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston.

Wang has studied the benefits of tai chi for osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia, but she was not involved in the current research.

“Most of our previous studies have measured pain, depression, and anxiety, which are subjective measures. These results are very impressive because they used objective measurements,” Wang tells WebMD.

It’s not clear exactly why tai chi may offer an edge over more conventional kinds of exercise like resistance training, but researchers say they believe it probably has something to do with the mind-body connection that’s encouraged throughout the poses.

“It’s intentional movement. So every step you take, you are aware of it. We put quite a bit of emphasis on the self-awareness of the movement,” says Fuzhong Li, PhD, senior scientist at the Oregon Research Institute, a nonprofit center for the study of human behavior in Eugene, Ore.

Additionally, Li says, tai chi has some practical advantages over other kinds of exercise.

“You don’t need any equipment. You can practice anywhere, anytime. It’s low cost. It can easily be incorporated into the rehab setting, as well,” Li says.

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