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Tai Chi Linked to Re-teaching Balance for Stroke Patients

Update Date: Feb 19, 2013 01:14 PM EST

Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art that has several health benefits for its practitioners. There have been studies that link Tai Chi to improving memory for elders and Alzheimer's patients, who may suffer from dementia. Tai Chi has also been linked to developing balance, controlling blood pressure, and improving mood. More recently, the meditative form of exercise, which includes slow movements, intense concentration, and steady and controlled breathing, is believed to help with regaining balance and movement for stroke survivors.

The new benefits of Tai Chi was discovered by cardiovascular nurse scientist, Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, FAHA who studied and practiced nursing in Hong Kong, China for 15 years. In Hong Kong where practicing Tai Chi can be seen everywhere, Taylor-Piliae had the opportunity to observe Tai Chi first handedly, and thus, she began her research on how Tai Chi may help stroke survivors after returning home to the United States.

Taylor-Piliae started her research while being a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar and an assistant professor at the College of Nursing located at the University of Arizona. Her goal was to find a new physical method for stroke patients so that these survivors can regain better control of their movements and balance. The study found that performing Tai Chi may in fact lower the possibility of falls for older survivors. This will consequently prevent dangerous bone fractures and limited mobility which would result from a fall.

"Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge," Taylor-Piliae said to RWJF. "Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance."

Taylor's study observed 89 stroke survivors over the span of 12 weeks. These survivors were all elderly and were randomly split into three groups, each with a different method of exercise. The group that had the least amount of falls was practicing Tai Chi, which indicates that this martial art may indeed be extremely helpful.

On top of the health benefits, Tai Chi will not be a burden on the wallets. It is easily accessible and can be practiced either indoors or outdoors. Furthermore, Tai Chi tends to be a communal and social practice which will also support a healthy social life for these patients. Tai Chi, a practice that seems pretty easy and fun, can really do wonders for the body and mind. 

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