Tai Chi, a martial art dating back to ancient China, may help adult stroke survivors avoid debilitating falls and improve quality of life, based on findings presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference.
“Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge,” says researcher Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, Ph.D., at the University of Arizona College of Nursing in Tucson, Ariz. “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.”
For the study, 89 stroke survivors with an average age of 70 were divided into three groups. One group participated in usual care and experienced 15 falls. Another group participated in a typical, one-hour exercise class three times a week and experienced 14 falls. The group that participated in Tai Chi one hour a day for three days a week experienced only five falls. All of the falls happened in people’s homes.
“The main physical benefits of Tai Chi are better balance, improved strength, flexibility and aerobic endurance,” Taylor-Piliae says. “Psycho-social benefits include less depression, anxiety and stress, and better quality of life.”
Stroke survivors experience seven times as many falls each year than healthy adults, resulting in fractures, decreased mobility and sometimes death.