Tai Chi Training Improves Balance in Parkinson’s Disease

(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%, respectively) and directional control (10.45% and 11.38%, 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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