A recent study has declared the ancient Chinese martial art, Tai Chi, to be of great help to stroke survivors. Its practice can increase balance and reduce fall risk.
Stroke can impair balance, heightening the risk of a debilitating fall. However, according to Christina Hui-Chan, professor and head of physical therapy at University of Illinois, stroke survivors can improve their balance by practicing tai chi.
Tai chi consists of constant coordinated movement of the head, trunk and limbs requiring tremendous concentration and balance control.
To reach the conclusion, researchers used 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.
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 goal was to make the patients as independent in their treatment as possible, Hui-Chan said.
They were then 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 two groups performed about the same on another test, which was not focused solely on balance but involved sitting, standing, walking, and returning to sit down.
"The tai chi group did particularly better in conditions that required them to use their balance control," Hui-Chan said.
"In only six weeks, we saw significant improvements. The ability to shift your weight is very important because all reaching tasks require it," the expert added.