Practising tai chi twice a week can help Parkinson’s patients improve their balance and walking ability, according to an American study. A randomised, controlled trial assigned 195 Parkinson’s patients with mild to moderate disease to one of three groups: tai chi, resistance training or stretching. The patients engaged in 60-minute exercise sessions twice weekly for 24 weeks. The tai chi group performed consistently better than the resistance-training and stretching groups in a number of postural stability tests. The tai chi group also performed better than the stretching group in all secondary outcomes (including measures of gait and strength, functional-reach and timed up-and-go tests) and outperformed the resistance-training group in stride length and functional reach. Tai chi lowered the incidence of falls compared with stretching, but not compared with resistance training. The effects of tai chi training were maintained at three months after the intervention. (Tai chi and postural stability in patients with Parkinson’s disease. N Engl J Med. 2012 Feb 9;366(6):511-9).

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