Tai Chi and Stroke Recovery

No Pain, But Lots of Gain

Tai chi is an ancient, Chinese martial art that has been adapted into a form of exercise. It’s becoming increasingly popular. The short form of tai chi uses slow, meditative movements to enhance the flow of energy within your body. It also calms the mind and promotes alert relaxation.

There are many good things about tai chi, but it’s the documented health benefits I want to share with you today. The health benefits of tai chi are impressive. Recent research shows that you can use it to help with a variety of health issues.

Faster and Better Stroke Recovery

Most recently, researchers discovered that it benefits stroke victims. When you suffer a stroke, it can take a long time to fully recover your balance. The resulting mobility issues can cause you to fall and injure yourself.

A research team from the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered that tai chi helps you recover your balance faster. Dr. Hui-Chan led the study, using the following design criteria:

  • 136 patients participated.
  • Each patient had survived a stroke within the last six months.
  • The patients were divided into two groups.
  • One group practiced tai chi.
  • The other did standard stretching and mobility exercises.

At regular intervals, the researchers tested the patients, measuring their ability to shift their weight, to hold their balance on a moving surface, and to lean in different directions. The tai chi group outperformed the other group when it came to balance control. (1)

According to Hui-Chan, enhanced balance control improves the patients’ ability to perform everyday tasks. Patients in the group showed improvements very quickly. Dr. Hui-Chan said, “In only six weeks, we saw significant improvements. The ability to shift your weight is very important because all reaching tasks require it.” (2)

Reduces Pain and Builds Bones

This is of tremendous significance to aging people:

  • Practicing helps keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis. It promotes general health, improves neuromuscular coordination, and slows bone loss. (3)
  • If you’ve reached middle age or beyond, it may improve your blood pressure and increase your overall muscle strength. (4)
  • Some patients with osteoarthritis report that it helps to control pain and improve mobility. (5)

Tai chi is a low-impact exercise that is safe for just about anyone to do. It provides many health and fitness benefits and can give you a mental lift, too. In most cities and towns, there are classes available through local community centers. You can even see groups practicing in local parks.

Look one up and give it a try.

Please talk to your doctor before you make changes to your diet, exercise routine or supplements.

Until next time…

Sources:

  1. Hui-Chan CWY, et al. “Short-form Tai Chi improves standing balance of people with chronic stroke,”Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair. Published online January 2009.
  2. “Stroke Survivors Improve Balance with Tai Chi,”Bayho.com. March 30, 2009.
  3. Lui PP, et al. “Tai Chi Chuan exercises in enhancing bone mineral density in active seniors,” Clin Sports Med 2008; 27(1): 75-86
  4. Chen KM, et al. “The effects of a Simplifi ed Tai-Chi Exercise Program (STEP) on the physical health of older adults living in long-term care facilities: A single group design with multiple time points,” Intl J Nursing Studies 2008: 45(4): 501-507
  5. Lee MS, et al. “Tai chi for osteoarthritis: a systematic review,” Clinical Rheumatology 2008; 27(2): 211-18