A new study finds that stroke survivors can improve their balance by practicing the Chinese martial art of tai chi, lessening the risk of a serious fall. Tai chi consists of constant coordinated movement of the head, torso and limbs requiring concentration and balance control.
The study looked at 136 participants in Hong Kong who had suffered a stroke more than six months earlier. Participants were randomly assigned to a tai chi group or to a control group that practiced breathing, stretching and other exercises that involved sitting, walking, memorizing and reasoning.
Participants in the tai chi group were trained in small groups by physical therapists in a weekly class, then practiced at home three days a week for one hour. All participants were then tested for their ability to maintain balance while shifting weight, leaning in different directions, and standing on moving surfaces to simulate a crowded bus. In these tests the tai chi group out-performed the control exercise group, showing significant improvement in just six weeks.
Christina Hui-Chan, professor and head of physical therapy at University of Illinois at Chicago, promotes tai chi as a way to improve balance and minimize falls among healthy elderly subjects. She reports that the benefits of tai chi also include improved strength and cardio fitness. In addition, group classes provide a healthy social gathering for isolated seniors at a fraction the cost of physiotherapy or personal training.
SOURCE: Stroke Survivors Improve Balance With Tai Chi,
ScienceDaily, Mar. 24, 2009, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090323110458.htm