-- Robert Preidt
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The ancient Chinese
discipline of Tai Chi may help modern-day stroke patients avoid
debilitating falls, a small new study suggests.
Stroke survivors suffer seven times as many falls as healthy
adults. These falls can cause fractures, decrease mobility and
increase the fear of falling, which can lead to social isolation or
dependence on others, the researchers noted.
"Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge," lead author Ruth Taylor-Piliae, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, in Tucson, said in an American Stroke Association news release.
Taylor-Piliae's team tracked 89 people, who had an average age
of 70 and had suffered a stroke an average of three years before
the start of the study. Twenty-eight of the patients received usual
care, 31 were assigned to a national fitness program for
Medicare-eligible seniors called SilverSneakers and 30 practiced
Tai Chi, an exercise routine that dates back to ancient China,
includes physical movement, mental concentration and relaxed
The people in the Tai Chi and SilverSneakers programs did
one-hour classes three times a week for 12 weeks. The usual-care
group received a weekly phone call and written material about
During the three months of the study, the participants suffered
a total of 34 falls in their homes, mainly from slipping or
tripping. There were 15 falls in the usual-care group, 14 falls in
the SilverSneakers group and only five falls in the Tai Chi group,
according to the findings, which were to be presented Wednesday at
the annual meeting of the American Stroke Association in
"Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance, which is important to prevent falls," Taylor-Piliae said. She added that Tai Chi is also "readily available in most U.S. cities and is relatively inexpensive."
One stroke expert not connected to the study said he's seen the
discipline's benefits firsthand.
"Tai Chi is an exercise form that emphasizes balance, core strength and integration of mind and body in movement," said Dr. Jesse Weinberger, professor of neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City. "It has previously been shown to improve motor function and prevent falls in the elderly and in patients with Parkinson's disease.
"In addition to being a vascular neurologist, I also practice the Yang style of the Tai Chi form and I have several patients in my class who have had strokes or have Parkinson's and they show improvement in balance and coordination," Weinberger said.
"The main benefit of Tai Chi for the stroke patient is the integration of mind and body through meditation in motion to improve motor control," he said.
Taylor-Piliae agreed that Tai Chi offers a wide range of
benefits beyond the physical. "Psycho-social benefits include less
depression, anxiety and stress, and better quality of life," she
Findings presented at medical meetings should be considered
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine has more about
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