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Tai Chi: Good for Mind Body and Stroke Patients

Tai chi can improve the balance of stroke victims, thereby decreasing the risk of debilitating falls, according to the findings of a study published in the March 2009 issue of the journal Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.

Tai chi is a non-competitive ancient Chinese martial art that uses a series of poses, stretches and gentle, flowing motions to achieve balance within the practitioner.

Researchers from the University of Illinois in Chicago recruited 136 individuals for the randomized-controlled trial. All of the participants were from Hong Kong and all had suffered a stroke 6 months or more prior to the study.

The participants were randomly assigned to a tai chi group or a control group for 12 months.

The tai chi group underwent training in a type of tai chi known as short-form tai chi, adapted from the Sun style tai chi for people with arthritis.

Short-form tai chi consists of 12 simple forms that require whole-body movements to be performed in a continuous sequence; demanding concentration, balance, and leaning in different directions.

The participants learned short-form tai chi from a tai chi instructor once a week and practiced at home for three hours per week.

The control group did a series of breathing, walking, stretching and sitting exercises, and practiced tasks related to memorization and reasoning.

The researchers found that the tai chi group performed significantly better in conditions that involved using balance control. This ability is extremely important for older adults because any reaching task requires a fluid shift of weight.

Tai chi is a "soft" martial art, so it isn't strenuous and can be practiced by almost anyone. That's why it is considered perfect for older adults who have difficulty with more rigorous exercise but still want to continue being active.

Tai Chi has far ranging benefits beyond better balance for stroke patients. Previous research has found an association between Tai Chi and better sleep quality for older adults, a decrease in debilitating falls, and higher levels of self reported happiness and "satisfaction with life."
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