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Marjorie Bekaert Thomas
Advances in health and medicine.
Seniors' Health Channel
Reported February 7, 2013

Tai Chi Reduces Falls in Stroke Survivors


(Ivanhoe Newswire) – Those who suffer from a stroke fall seven times more each year than healthy adults, causing fractures and decreasing mobility.  Now, new research is suggesting that the stroke survivors who practice Tai Chi experience less falls when compared to survivors who receive usual care or participate in a national fitness program for Medicare-eligible adults called SilverSneakers. 
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that includes physical movements, relaxed breathing, and mental concentration.  Study participants practiced Yang-style Tai Chi, the most popular of the five styles that are used in the United States because of the emphasis on physical and psychosocial benefits.
"Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge.  Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance, which is important to prevent falls. Tai Chi is readily available in most U.S. cities and is relatively inexpensive,” Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, the study's principal investigator and assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, AZ, was quoted as saying.
Researchers examined 89 stroke survivors, mostly those who had ischemic strokes on average three years prior to beginning the study, for a randomized prospective study.  Study participants were on average 70 years old, 46% were women, most of them were Caucasian, college educated, and lived in the Tucson area.
Out of the 89 participants, 30 practiced Tai Chi, 28 took part in usual care, and 31 did SilverSneakers.  The SilverSneakers and Tai Chi groups exercised in a one-hour class three times a week for 12 weeks.  The group who just had the usual care received written material and a weekly phone call about participating in community-based physical activity.
During the 12-week trial, 34 reported falls in participants’ homes mostly from tripping or slipping:  five falls in the Tai Chi group, 14 falls in the SilverSneakers group, and 15 falls in the usual care group. 
"The main physical benefits of Tai Chi are better balance, improved strength, flexibility and aerobic endurance.  Psycho-social benefits include less depression, anxiety and stress, and better quality of life,” Taylor-Piliae said.
SOURCE:  American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference, February 2013


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