People with Parkinson's disease usually have substantially impaired balance, leading to diminished functional ability and an increased risk of falling. Although exercise is routinely encouraged by health care providers, few programs have been proven effective.
A randomized, controlled trial was conducted by the Oregon Research Institute, with funding from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, to determine whether a tailored Tai Chi program could improve postural control in sufferers of idiopathic Parkinson's disease. All trial participants undertook 60-minute exercise sessions twice weekly for 24 weeks. There were three exercise groups in the trial; resistance training, stretching and Tai Chi. The Tai Chi group performed consistently better than the resistance-training and stretching groups. The Tai Chi group also performed better than the stretching group in all secondary outcomes and outperformed the resistance-training group in stride length and functional reach. Tai Chi lowered the incidence of falls as against the stretching program but not as compared with the resistance training. The effects of the Tai Chi training were maintained 3 months after the program concluded.
It was seen that Tai Chi training reduces balance impairments in sufferers of mild-to-moderate Parkinson's disease, with the additional benefits of improved functional capacity and reduced falls.
Reference: Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., Peter Harmer, Ph.D., M.P.H., Kathleen Fitzgerald, M.D., Elizabeth Eckstrom, M.D., M.P.H., Ronald Stock, M.D., Johnny Galver, P.T., Gianni Maddalozzo, Ph.D., and Sara S. Batya, M.D.
N Engl J Med 2012; 366:511-519 February 9, 2012
The Oregon Research Institute (F.L.), the Oregon Medical Group (K.F.), and the PeaceHealth Medical Group–Oregon (R.S.) — all in Eugene; Willamette University (P.H.) and BPM Physical Therapy Center (J.G.) — both in Salem, OR; Oregon Health and Science University, Portland (E.E.); Oregon State University, Corvallis (G.M.); and Oregon Neurology Associates, Springfield (S.S.B.).
For more information: Dr. Li at the Oregon Research Institute, 1715 Franklin Blvd., Eugene, OR 97403, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.