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Tai Chi Helps Prevent Falls in Stroke Survivors

Update Date: Feb 07, 2013 07:45 AM EST

An ancient form of martial art - Tai chi - can help prevent falls in older adults who have suffered from stroke.

Tai chi is also known as moving meditation, says National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, as it involves moving gently with awareness. A survey in the year 2007 found that around 2.3 million people in the U.S. have practiced Tai chi.

The technique helps improve movement in the elderly and those who suffer from conditions related to bone like osteoporosis. However, people suffering from hernia or other conditions should consult their physician before beginning a Tai chi workout.

According to an article published last year by National Institutes of Health, Tai chi can help prevent falls in people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.

Stroke survivals have a seven-time higher incidence of falls compared to people who haven't had a stroke. These falls can reduce mobility and a fear of falling that can have a significant impact on a person's mental health.

According to CDC, more than $28 billion is spent each year on treating injuries related to falls in older adults in the U.S.

"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," said Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, Ph.D assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, Ariz., and lead author of the study, according to a news release.

The present study on whether or not Yang-style Tai chi can prevent falls was based on 89 stroke survivors who were about 70 years old.

Among the study participants, 30 practiced Tai chi, 28 were in usual care and 31 participated in SilverSneakers® - a fitness program designed for adults.

The study lasted for 12 weeks, during which people in the Tai chi reported the lowest number of falls, with five falls compared to 15 falls reported by people taking part in the usual care and 14 in the SilverSneakers®.

"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.

The study was presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2013.

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