Study Finds Tai Chi Exercises May Prove Effective for Patients With Parkinson Disease

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

In individuals with mild to moderate Parkinson disease, Tai Chi was shown to be a potentially effective meditation technique that may slow down disease progression, according to study findings.

Study Finds Tai Chi Exercises May Prove Effective for Patients With Parkinson Disease

tai chi improves parkinsons

In individuals with mild to moderate Parkinson disease (PD), Tai Chi was shown to be a potentially effective meditation technique that may slow down disease progression, according to study findings published in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research.

Researchers aimed to compare the effect of routine exercises to the practice of Tai Chi on physical and clinical performance of elderly people with PD. The researchers collected data from interviews, physical and clinical performance, and levodopa consumption of 500 patients with confirmed diagnoses of PD.

“Tai Chi is an exercise based on balance maintenance guided by the yin-yang theory of traditional Chinese medicine originating 6000 years ago. Tai Chi is a safe and effective technique that helps the body and brain, and consists of approximately 108 intricate exercise steps,” said the study authors. “The National Parkinson Foundation has recommended Tai Chi for PD patients as complementary therapy but little evidence has been provided via clinical trials.”

One group of patients received 80 minutes a day of Tai Chi, 3 times a week for 2 months, while the routine exercise group completed 90 minutes a day of routine exercise, 3 times a week for 2 months. All participants were interviewed at the end of the 2-month process.

In the study results, researchers reported that the timed up-and-go, 50-foot speed walk, and functional reach were improved by Tai Chi and routine exercise, but intensities of Tai Chi for improvement of such parameters was higher than routine exercise. Additionally, the incidence of falls was decreased by both physical therapies, however, decreased at a higher rate for the Tai Chi group.

Researchers also found that during the follow-up, 9% of patients in the Tai Chi group had successfully withdrew from levodopa treatment, and those who did not withdraw had decreased their dose. During the final interview, all participants had reported being happy with their exercise program and found the program to be easy, safe, and appropriate. Patients also reported that they felt the exercises improved their balance and confidence.

“The results of this study supported that Tai Chi was an effective meditation technique for people who have mild to moderate Parkinson's disease. The incorporation of Tai Chi in the daily life of Parkinson's disease patients allowed them to stay functionally and physically active. Improvement of physical parameters indicated that Tai Chi had the potential to slow down the progression of Parkinson's disease and delay the introduction of levodopa,” concluded the study authors.

Reference

Li Q, Liu J, Dai f, et al. Tai Chi versus routine exercise in patients with early- or mild-stage Parkinson's disease: a retrospective cohort analysis [published online February 10, 2020]. Braz J Med Biol Res. doi: 10.1590/1414-431x20199171