and Research ...
Stroke survivors improve
balance with tai chi
Stroke can impair balance,
heightening the risk of a debilitating fall. But a
University of Illinois at Chicago researcher has found that
stroke survivors can improve their balance by practicing the
Chinese martial art of tai chi.
Christina Hui-Chan, professor and head of physical therapy
at UIC, has studied and used tai chi as a way to improve
balance and minimize falls among healthy elderly subjects.
Now she and a colleague have seen similar results in a group
of stroke survivors.
The study 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.
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 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
"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."
While learning tai chi is not easy, Hui-Chan has found that
most people can learn the art if taught by a trained
Hui-Chan said that benefits of tai chi include improved
strength and cardio fitness. Group classes also provide a
healthy social gathering for isolated seniors at a fraction
the cost of physiotherapy or personal training.
University of Illinois at Chicago 03 09
The findings will be published in the journal
Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
strokes often follow within hours
See also Stroke
Gender differences in stroke symptoms ...
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