Stroke survivors who often have balance problems can practice tai chi to improve their balance and reduce their number of falls according to a new research. Tai chi, an ancient Chinese exercise which was originally developed for self-defense has been known to reduce stress and anxiety. It's described as meditation in motion at times, as it consists of moving the body with slow, focused movements. A new study found that stroke survivors who learned tai chi suffered less falls. The group was compared to another group of stroke survivors who participated in a regular exercise program as recovery therapy. The findings of the study were presented on Wednesday (Feb. 6) at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2013 in Honolulu.
Researchers divided a group of 89 men and women stroke survivor participants into three groups, most of who suffered a stroke three years before joining the study. The average age of the participants was 70 and all were randomly assigned to the three groups. The first group was assigned to 12 weeks of one hour tai chi instruction. The second group was assigned to take 12 weeks of one hour exercise classes called SilverSneakers, focusing on the improvement of range of movement and muscle strength. The third group of stroke survivors was provided with written materials encouraging them to participate in physical activity and received weekly follow up calls.
A total of 34 falls resulting from tripping or slipping were reported by the participants during the three month long study. Only 5 were reported among the group of participants who were enrolled in the tai chi classes. 14 falls were reported from the group that took the SilverSneakers classes and 14 came from the usual care group.
Author of the study Ruth Taylor-Piliae, an assistant professor at the University Of Arizona College Of Nursing in Tucson said in a news release, "Tai chi combines physical movements with mental concentration and relaxation." The blend of body and mind is what she thinks helps the stroke survivors to prevent falls. Tai chi helps with moving balance, unlike traditional exercise, which helps with standing balance. The concentration and increased awareness and attentiveness also seem to help.