The benefits of Tai Chi

It isn’t every day that an effective new treatment for some Parkinson’s disease symptoms comes along. Especially one that is safe, causes no adverse side effects, and may also benefit the rest of the body and the mind. That’s why I read with excitement and interest a report in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that tai chi may improve balance and prevent falls among people with Parkinson’s disease. Tai chi improves balance and motor control in Parkinson’s disease

The slow, deliberate movements of the Tai Chi form can directly address many of the major Parkinson’s symptoms. For example:

  • Preventing falls and developing flexibility – The constant sinking, turning, and shifting of weight in the Tai Chi form gives a tremendous workout to the legs and lower body. The constant transition from move to move stretches the hip and groin area strengthening the muscles and joints. Each stance ends with roots sunk deep into the ground, while remaining flexible like a tree in the wind.
  • Balance – In Tai Chi, proper alignment of the body is obtained by tucking in the chin, raising the back of the neck slightly, and elongating the spine as if it is suspended from the top of the head like a string of pearls.  This “string” imagery relieves the stress on the back muscles, relaxes the shoulders and improves posture and balance.
  • Rigidity and freezing – It is not unusual for Parkinson’s people to experience rigidity or to suddenly become frozen when walking. Concentrating on flowing like a river in the form produces beautiful even movements that are thrilling to experience. More

NPR Coverage: Tai Chi Exercise for Parkinson’s Disease

Listen to the audio here (4 min), and read the NPR article here: Fight Parkinson’s: Exercise May be the Best Therapy.