March 24, 2009
Tai chi improves stroke survivor’s balance
A University of Illinois at Chicago researcher found that stroke survivors can improve their balance by practicing the Chinese martial art of tai chi.
Christina Hui-Chan, who has studied and used tai chi as a way to improve balance and minimize falls among healthy elderly subjects, studied 136 subjects in Hong Kong who had suffered a stroke more than six months earlier.Participants were randomly assigned to a tai chi group or a control group that practiced breathing, stretching and other exercises that involved sitting, walking, memorizing and reasoning.
Tai chi consists of constant coordinated movement of the head, trunk and limbs requiring tremendous concentration and balance control. Participants learned a simplified form that had been shown to be beneficial to arthritis patients.
Patients were trained in small groups by physical therapists in a weekly class, then practiced at home three days a week for one hour. They received 12 weeks of training but were able to learn the technique in as little as eight.
The study subjects were than 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.
The study is scheduled to be published in the journal Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.