This recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that patients suffering from mild to moderate Parkinson’s disease can benefit from Tai Chi developing better balance reducing the injuries from falls and obtaining overall improved functional capacity. Another activity that is good for balance is ballroom dancing.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts, but one that uses slow, rhythmic, and circular movements as opposed to ballistic movements found in karate and tae kwon do. Some believe that movements used in Tai Chi are patterned from the study of movements of animals and plants. The focus or goal of Tai Chi is to reach a balance between flexibility, strength, and speed.
An example of this ancient Chinese form of exercise is displayed in the video below. Fuzhong Li, the lead author of the New England Journal Medicine article is the instructor.
Other Benefits of Tai Chi
Tai Chi is the best studied martial art in medical research in the US and has applications in treating osteoporosis, attention deficit disorder, and stress reduction. It has been shown to be especially beneficial in reducing falls in the elderly.
Because it is low impact it is a great form of exercise for those suffering from osteoarthritis particularly the hips and knees. It reduces the pain of arthritis and improves joint mobility and muscle flexibility. It is being used more in cancer patients where it has been shown to improve function and quality of life. Some studies also show that Tai Chi can also improve some parameters of cardiopulmonary fitness. Like other forms of exercise it provides all around health benefits.
The other benefit of Tai Chi is that it is frequently performed in a class setting providing some social interaction – important for all of us, but especially the elderly.
DVDs of Tai Chi can readily be found online including on this site by going to the home page and scrolling down to Fitness Accessories.
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