Tai Chi Training Improves Balance in Parkinson's Disease

Lower incidence of falls with tai chi compared with stretching, but not with resistance training

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 8 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with mild to moderate Parkinson's disease, tai chi reduces balance impairments compared with resistance training or stretching, according to a study published in the Feb. 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., from the Oregon Research Institute in Eugene, and colleagues conducted a randomized trial to investigate whether tai chi could improve postural control in patients with stage 1 to 4 Parkinson's disease on the Hoehn and Yahr staging scale. A total of 195 patients were randomly assigned to participate in 60-minute exercise sessions twice a week for 24 weeks, performing tai chi, resistance training, or stretching. The change from baseline in the limits-of-stability test was the primary outcome measured.

The investigators found that the tai chi group performed consistently better than the resistance-training and stretching groups in maximum excursion (between-group difference in change from baseline of 5.55 and 11.98 percent, respectively) and directional control (10.45 and 11.38 percent, respectively). For all secondary outcomes, the tai chi group performed better than the stretching group; for stride length and functional reach, tai chi performed better than the resistance-training group. There was a lower incidence of falls for patients in the tai chi group compared with those in the stretching group but not the resistance-training group. Three months after the intervention, the effects of tai chi were maintained.

"Tai chi appears to be effective as a stand-alone behavioral intervention designed to improve postural stability and functional ability in people with Parkinson's disease," the authors write.

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