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Tai Chi And Parkinson’s

What The Research Says

Tai Chi for Parkinson Disease (Level 1) – Nov 1, 2019

A study published in 2012 in the New England Journal of Medicine was the first to seemingly show the benefits of Tai Chi in Parkinsons disease. 195 patients with Parkinsons were randomized into 3 groups. One group met for Tai Chi classes twice weekly for 60 minutes, the second group underwent resistance training with weights and the third was assigned seated stretching.

After 6 months, the results were clear. Those in the Tai Chi group were more flexible and able to lean farther forward and backward without losing their balance or falling. Compared to the other groups, their movements were also smoother and they were able to take longer strides while walking. Similar to those that exercised with weights, those that took Tai Chi walked more swiftly, had increased leg strength and were able to stand from a seated position more quickly. The most startling improvement, however, was in the number of falls, with those that practiced Tai Chi falling less than half the number of times compared to the subjects in the two other groups. Interestingly, the Tai Chi group also experienced less dyskinesia as they were able to adopt strategies that resulted in more controlled movement.

So should you add Tai Chi into your fitness routine? Based on the gentle and meditative quality of this exercise as well as the scientific support of its use specifically in Parkinsons disease, a case can be made to incorporate it into your physical practice.

Medical History Of Patients

Among the enrolled PD patients, male to female ratio was 2.5:1. Some of the patients had started levodopa or equivalent treatment in the previous 6 months. The other demographical and clinical parameters are reported in Table 1. There were no significant differences for the parameters between both groups at enrollment .

Table 1

Qigong And Tai Chi Treat Parkinsons Disease

by Case Adams, PhD·

Qigong. Photo by K. Kendall

Qigong and Tai chi are ancient exercises, with origins more than two thousand years old. There are similarities between these two therapeutic exercise arts, but also some subtle differences. Lets cover Qigong first.

The word Qigong is made up of two words:

1. Qi means the life force or vital energy that flows through and animates our body. This life force produces electromagnetic energy, heat and other forces. 2. Gong means the development of a skill through ongoing practice.

The actual exercises maintained in Qigong utilize the concepts of the bodys meridians. The Qi flows through our meridians. Each meridian contains numerous energetic spots. These are often referred to as acupoints. These are stimulated by acupuncturists in treatments. But they can also be stimulated by gentle and focused motion.

This is what Qigong attempts to do. It utilizes mindfulness and an attention to motion that synchronizes our spirit with our body.

This video takes you through some of the exercises involved in Qigong:

In this article

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How Can It Help In Parkinson’s

To date there is limited research into the benefits of Tai Chi for Parkinsons but because it enhances balance and body awareness, it is believed by many to reduce the risk of falls, improve balance and confidence when walking and also improve gait and posture. Some people with Parkinsons have reported improvements in sleep too.

Unlike most sports or exercises, Tai Chi does not rely on strength, force or speed, which makes it possible for a range of abilities, ages and strengths. Even a small amount of practice can bring benefits in health and fitness, enabling the mind and body to relax. This in turn may improve emotional wellbeing and overall quality of life.

As with all physical therapies, you may find some of the activities challenging, but techniques may be adapted to suit individuals your teacher should be able to advise on this. Special care may be needed if you have severe osteoporosis, a hernia or are pregnant

Tai Chi Can Help Reduce Non


We have discussed the motor symptoms that affect patients with Parkinsons disease.

Symptoms like mood disorders including depression, anxiety, hallucinations, cognitive changes like impaired attention and memory loss all form the non-motor symptoms.

Apart from tremor reduction, prevention of falls and enhanced motor control, Tai chi is also found to reduce cognitive decline in Parkinsons disease patients.

In a study published by the Journal of Yoga and Physical Therapy, 2014, Tai chi training was found to be effective in alleviating the non-motor symptoms of Parkinsons disease as well.

Patients with compromised cognitive functioning practised 60 minute Tai chi sessions twice in a week.

The patients showed improved processing speed, memory, attention, ability to switch tasks and concentrate on specific tasks as compared to those patients who did not practice the exercise.

Wang and colleagues have reported Tai chi can improve the quality of life of Parkinsons disease patients by reducing stress, anxiety, depression, disturbances in mood and increased self-esteem.

Similarly, Choi et al. also observed that 12-week Tai chi practice improved mood and behaviour in patients with idiopathic Parkinsons disease , apart from improving agility and balance.

The ancient martial art practice also has the potential to improve cognition in the elderly.

The relaxing poses of Tai chi lower anxiety in healthy individuals and improve cognition and alertness.

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Measurement Of Physical Performance

Physical performance was measured by three tests: the 50-foot speed test, which estimates the time by the patient takes to walk a 50-foot distance the timed up-and-go test, which evaluates the time required by a participant to stand up from a chair, walk 10 feet, and come back and sit down on the chair the functional reach test, which measures 16 common functional activities, e.g. unloading groceries, making a bed, climbing 3 steps onto a platform with luggage, etc. . Incidence of falls was also recorded before intervention and within 6-months . Participants were helped and assisted to perform the tasks whenever needed.

What About Tai Chi For Parkinsons

As mentioned, Tai chi is similar to Qigong in many respects. These include some elements of the forms, and the gentle and focused nature of these forms. The word Tai relates to the balance between ying and yang , while the word chi is the same as Qi it relates to our life force or vital energy.

But does Tai chi also result in improvement among Parkinsons disease patients? The research says yes.

A 2015 study from the Tongji University School of Medicine in Shanghai tested 40 people with Parkinsons. They divided the patients into two groups. One group did Tai chi for 12 weeks. The other group did not. They tested the patients with many of the same tests used in the Qigong research above.

Once again, the researchers found significant improvements among the Tai chi group. These included improvements in balance and movement function. The improvements were not as pronounced as found in the Qigong study, but they were significant enough.

The researchers concluded:

This multimodal exercise training could improve motion function and benefit balance function in patients with Parkinson disease. The multimodal exercise training is easy to learn and practice.

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Efficacy Analysis Of Outcome Measures

The primary analysis will compare the changes on BBS from baseline to endpoint of treatment between two treatment groups using analysis of covariance adjusting by the BBS baseline value. The statistically significant level of P-value is less than 0.05. If any participants drop out from the trial, intention-to-treat analyses will be adopted. Participants who withdraw will be treated as having no change from baseline at all times after dropping out. In addition to intention-to-treat analyses, multiple imputation will be used to perform secondary analyses. We will also check the mechanism of the participation drop-out and determine whether the missing data is ignorable or not. If non-ignorable missing data methods are needed, we will explore both selection and pattern-mixture types. All efficacy analyses of primary and secondary outcome measurements will be conducted by the same analytical strategy.

Study Design And Setting

Treating Parkinson’s Disease with Tai Chi

This study is a single-blind , parallel, RCT. Participants will be randomly divided into a control group, a basic experimental group, and a balanced-enhanced experimental group. Assessment will be carried out by the Shanghai University of Sport assessors at baseline, 17 weeks , and 33 weeks . The research flowchart is shown in Figure 1. Ethical approval has been given by the ethical review committee of the Shanghai University of Sport . The study will be performed according to the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials guidelines .

Figure 1. Trail flow chart.

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Baseline Characteristics Of The Participants

From May 2008 through November 2010, a total of 309 persons were screened for eligibility 195 qualified and underwent randomization . shows the baseline characteristics of the study population. A total of 164 persons were at stage 2 or higher on the Hoehn and Yahr staging system . The groups were well matched with regard to baseline characteristics, including age, sex, duration of Parkinson’s disease, Hoehn and Yahr stages, and baseline study outcomes of interest.

Instructions To The Class And Monitoring

The investigators coached and supervised the training session for 2 months. Both investigators had more than 5 years of experience in physical therapy, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and first aid. Participants were asked whether any discomfort was faced and their responses were recorded after the end of the training session. Changes were made on an individual basis in the program.

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Parkinson’s Disease And Taoist Tai Chi Arts

If you have been recently diagnosed or have been suffering for years, you know that Parkinsons disease can cause problems with movement, posture, balance and cognition. Research into Tai Chi and Parkinsons disease shows that Tai chi is very effective in helping people who have Parkinsons. With Taoist Tai Chi® practice you can move more freely, maintain flexibility, find better alignment, posture and balance, and improve cognition. In addition, people practicing Taoist Tai Chi® arts have found a sense of lightness and well-being.

Related Resources:

Tai Chi Helps Parkinson’s Patients With Balance Movement


People doing tai chi look like they’re moving in graceful slow motion, but something about those carefully controlled movements and perhaps the mindset they put people in seems to have health benefits. Tai chi has been tested in dozens of studies, and the findings suggest that it can help people with conditions ranging from heart failure to osteoporosis to fibromyalgia. Now it seems that Parkinson’s disease can be added to that list.

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Inclusion And Exclusion Criteria

All patients aged 18 years and above with confirmed PD ), severity level I to III , that could move independently, had no other severe neurological disorder, had not participated in any kind of physical therapy program in the previous 2 months, and did not have other severe orthopedic disorders were included in the analysis.

Patients with PD disease severity level IV and patients who had received any physical therapy exercise in the previous 2 months were excluded from the analysis.

Tai Chi May Improve Balance In Parkinson’s Disease

S. Andrew Josephson, M.D.

AccessMedicine from McGraw-Hill

Postural instability in patients with Parkinsons disease can lead to frequent falls and progressive difficulty with activities of daily living. Most clinicians encourage these patients to participate in exercise programs in order to improve balance, but evidence for this approach is scant. A recent trial of tai chi, an exercise program that focuses on balance, therefore stands as a potentially important advance for these patients .

The authors randomized patients with idiopathic Parkinsons disease to one of three exercise classes that met for 60 min twice weekly for 24 weeks. One groups class focused on maintaining balance through postural control with tai chi training. A second group was assigned to resistance training using weighted vests and ankle weights, with the goal of strengthening muscles that are key for posture and balance. A third group was randomized to a control condition of low-intensity stretching. Outcome measures assessed at baseline, 3 months, 6 months, and then 3 months after the intervention was complete included two indicators of postural stability as measured by computerized posturographymaximum excursion and directional control.


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What Should I Expect If I Join A Class

Tai Chi is not regulated in some countries. It is therefore a good idea to ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for recommendations. Friends, family, other people with Parkinsons or your national Parkinsons association may also be able to advise based on personal experience.

It is advisable to see a teacher who has experience of Parkinsons so do ask about their experience of the condition as well as their qualifications.

Tai Chi classes are relaxing and non-competitive, and comprise four basic elements:

  • Dao Yin easy-to-learn exercises and gentle stretches to warm up the body and help remove toxins from joints and ligaments
  • Chi Kung – exercises with synchronised breathing to help strengthen and balance the bodys energy whilst aiding concentration and reducing stress
  • Tai Chi Chuan a series of movements performed in a slow, relaxed and flowing way, also known as the Form. Lasting from 5 to 20 minutes, the Form is a kind of moving meditation. Each movement can be practiced at increasing levels of depth as the student develops
  • Push-hands practice these are partner exercises designed to help the student develop an understanding of the underlying philosophy of Tai Chi as a martial art.

You will need to wear clothing that you find easy to move and stretch in, but no specialist equipment is required. Tai Chi should be taught by a qualified teacher and not learned from a book. Always make sure that your teacher knows that you have Parkinsons.

Tai Chi The Virginian Fairfax Virginia

Tai Chi for Parkinson Disease (Level 1) – March 29, 2019

Mondays & Wednesdays at 11:00 a.m. 11:45 a.m.

In partnership with and held at:

9229 Arlington Blvd.Fairfax, VA 22031

PFNCA has teamed up with The Virginian to provide a Tai Chi program open to people with Parkinsons. Tai Chi is an internal Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits. Many with Parkinsons find benefit from Tai Chi.

Meet the instructor, James Lee:

James has almost 25 years of experience with Tai Chi and Qigong exercises and has studied with Chinese masters of these arts in the U.S. and Asia. He has been teaching professionally for 20 years to a variety of clients, including kids, college students, adults, and seniors. He is committed to helping his students gain the many benefits of Tai Chi, including better balance, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and a stronger immune system. Tai Chi and related exercises are simple and easy to do, but they are much more powerful than they appear.

Note:In order to attend PFNCA exercise programs at The Virginian, please follow these steps:

  • Register with PFNCA by or by calling 734-1017 to receive your PFNCA name badge.
  • 2. Complete Registration Packet for The Virginian.

    3. Return Virginian Registration Packet to and direct questions to:

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    Tai Chi Improves Balance And Motor Control In Parkinsons Disease

    Parkinsons is a severe neurodegenerative disease that can affect the neurons adversely resulting in complications like the inability to maintain body balance and to regulate movements.

    An article published by professors from Harvard Medical School describes how new safe therapies are sprouting up every now and then for the effective treatment and prevention of Parkinsons disease.

    The article was written in support of the study performed by a group of researchers from the Oregon Research Institute.

    They investigated the positive effects of Tai chi therapy on patients with disabled balance and motor control.

    A twice weekly therapy of Tai chi strengthened the muscles and improved balance significantly reducing their risk of falls. It prevented a decline in motor control functions.

    Although resistance training and stretching are other alternative exercises often recommended to Parkinsons patients, studies have proven that Tai chi produces better results.

    In 2012 Li et al. compared the effects of Tai chi with resistance training and stretching on Parkinsons disease.

    Participants in the Tai chi group showed better balance and motor control as compared to the resistance training and stretching exercise groups. They had a greater functional capacity and reduced risk to accidental falls.

    Parkinsons patients experience backaches as a result of poor posture.

    Tai chi comprises of exercises that focus on maintaining the right posture and help manage back and neck aches.

    It Can Reduce Systemic Oxidative Stress And Inflammation In Parkinsons Disease

    Increased oxidative stress and inflammation accelerate degeneration of brain cells in conditions like Parkinsons disease.

    Tai chi is known to mitigate cellular inflammation.

    An experimental trial conducted on older adults showed that practising Tai chi for 16 weeks on a regular basis helped reduce inflammatory mediator, interleukin in the blood.

    Researchers have also put forth the idea that better sleep and Tai chi improve health by reducing inflammation at a faster pace.

    Various scientific findings indicate that practising mind-body therapies like Tai chi helps reduce inflammatory responses thereby improving behavioural and psychological health.

    These therapies reduce circulatory levels of inflammatory mediators, decrease expression of genes regulating inflammation and prevent signalling of inflammatory factors.

    Oxidative stress caused by excessive free oxygen radicals that accelerate the process of ageing damages neurons in the brain and is involved in the pathogenesis of medical conditions like atherosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes and cancer.

    Physical exercise tremendously influences oxidative stress levels.

    According to a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, the weekly practice of Tai chi on a regular basis helps fight oxidative stress and damage in healthy individuals.

    Many individuals prefer walking more than those intensive training exercises.

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