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Tai chi: a beautiful practice that improves balance

Written By Coastal Integrative Health on September 21, 2016

Tai Chi could be the answer if you have experienced recent falls, unsteadiness, or loss of balance. 

I had a wonderful experience during my Yoga training to be instructed by Brenda Thomy in Tai Chi Chuan: Beijing Short Form.

It consisted of 24 movements considered Yang Style. The movements are performed slowly and graceful almost as in a Waltz.

The weight shift and elegance of the hands improved my balance and reflexes in ways that I was unaware till later after

putting all the form steps together and complete in one flow.

As we age our balance seems to diminish thus it is important to work on balance just as you would exercise to remain

strong and flexibility. Tai Chi is performed with simple precise movements that help to improve our reflexes and weight shift.

Tai Chi can be performed with support shoes or barefoot. Tai Chi is a beautiful practice to incorporate into your daily routine.

There are various styles of Tai Chi, I suggest finding a simple short style to begin with and progress as you feel comfortable.

Below are two articles that show Tai chi can be a benefit to include with your daily activities.

Research Roundup

Tai Chi Reduces Incidence of Falls Among the Elderly

Tai Chi; Both a physiotherapy program and supervised Tai Chi significantly improved fall-related outcomes among older adults. However, only the Tai Chi group experienced a decrease in the incidence of falls, according to a recent Canadian study.

Researchers randomly assigned 152 adults over the age of 65 who were admitted to a geriatric day hospital program to either a supervised Tai Chi group or physiotherapy. The purpose was to assess fall-related clinical variables (balance, gait, fear of falling, functional autonomy, self-actualization, and self-efficacy). The presence of the clinical variables related to falls was evaluated before the intervention (T1), immediately after (T2), and 12 months after the intervention (T3).

Both exercise programs significantly improved fall-related outcomes, but only the Tai Chi intervention group decreased the incidence of falls. For both groups, most variables followed the same pattern: significant improvement with the intervention between T1 and T2, followed by a statistically significant decrease at the T3 evaluation. However, self-efficacy was the only variable that improved solely with the Tai Chi intervention (p=0.001).

The researchers concluded, “The impact of supervised Tai Chi on fall prevention cannot be explained by a differential effect on balance, gait, and fear of falling. It appeared to be related to an increase of general self-efficacy, a phenomenon which is not seen in the conventional physiotherapy program.”

Tousignant M, Corriveau H, Roy PM, Desrosiers J, et al. The effect of supervised tai chi intervention compared to a physiotherapy program on fall-related clinical outcomes: a randomized clinical trial. Informa Healthcare. 2012;34(3):196-201.

Resource: New in the Literature: Tai Chi in Patients With Parkinson Disease (N Engl J Med 2012; 366:511-519.)

New in the Literature: Tai Chi in Patients With Parkinson Disease (N Engl J Med 2012; 366:511-519.)

Tai chi training appears to reduce balance impairments in patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson disease, with additional benefits of improved functional capacity and reduced falls, say authors of an article published this month in NEJM

For this trial, researchers randomly assigned 195 patients with stage 1 to 4 disease on the Hoehn and Yahr staging scale (which ranges from 1 to 5, with higher stages indicating more severe disease) to 1 of 3 groups: tai chi, resistance training, or stretching. The patients participated in 60-minute exercise sessions twice weekly for 24 weeks. The primary outcomes were changes from baseline in the limits-of-stability test (maximum excursion and directional control; range, 0 to 100%). Secondary outcomes included measures of gait and strength, scores on functional-reach and timed up-and-go tests, motor scores on the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale, and number of falls.

The tai chi group performed consistently better than the resistance-training and stretching groups in maximum excursion (between-group difference in the change from baseline were 5.55 percentage points and 11.98 percentage points, respectively) and in directional control (10.45 percentage points and 11.38 percentage points, respectively). The tai chi group also performed better than the stretching group in all secondary outcomes and outperformed the resistance-training group in stride length and functional reach. Tai chi lowered the incidence of falls more than stretching did, but not more than resistance training did. The effects of tai chi training were maintained at 3 months after the intervention. No serious adverse events were observed.

APTA member Johnny Galver, PT, coauthored the article.

PT in Motion News magazine

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