Tai chi improves postural stability in Parkinson’s disease

Individuals with Parkinson’s disease suffer from movement impairments that negatively impact balance which, in turn, adversely affects functional ability, quality of life and fall risk. Exercise is an important element of disease management in individuals with Parkinson’s. Resistance training has been show to be beneficial, but individuals require equipment and safety monitoring to do such training. Tai chi is a type of exercise focused on balance and is known to be beneficial in enhancing strength, balance, physical function, and fall risk in older adults. The current randomized, controlled study was conducted to determine the possible benefits of tai chi in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Subjects participated in a 24-week program of twice weekly exercise consisting of resistance training, stretching, or tai chi. Those in the tai chi group showed significant improvements in postural stability compared with those in the resistance training and stretching groups. Compared with the stretching group, the tai chi group also performed better in a number of secondary outcomes, including gait, strength, functional reach, timed up-and-go tests, and falls. The tai chi group also performed better than the resistance training group in gait and functional reach tests and had marginally fewer falls.

These findings suggest that tai chi may be an effective intervention that can improve postural stability, functional outcomes, and fall risk in individuals with Parkinson’s disease.

Fuzhong, L., et al. Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2012;366:511-9.