Have you ever passed a park, and witnessed a group of people making different movements with their bodies in a very slow controlled way whilst standing in one place on the ground? That’s Tai Chi. I think most of us would recognise this peaceful sport but did you know there are possible health benefits to it that are not immediately apparent. A Chinese study, Parkinson's UK: Homepage, has found that Tai Chi may help those who struggle with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
Tai chi is a Chinese martial art. It is also known as a system of uncomplicated callisthenics which consists of very slow controlled movements where deep breathing is encouraged. At the end of this exercise, you are supposed to feel fully relaxed and rejuvenated.
A university in Shanghai decided to study Tai Chi’s potential medical benefits on people with Parkinson’s Disease. This study from Shanghai Jiao University School of Medicine monitored hundreds of Parkinson’s sufferers, sometimes for as long as a five-year period. 147 of these Parkinson sufferers took up tai chi while another 187 Parkinson’s sufferers did not.
The researchers from the university found that the disease did not develop as quickly in those who practised tai chi. They evidenced this by measuring the participants’ movements, balance and symptoms of the disease. In the group who practised Tai Chi, less people fell, suffered pain and experienced less dizziness. Memory issues became less of an issue for the participants, and they found it easier to concentrate. An added bonus was that quality of sleep improved as did the ability to concentrate ensuring that these participants were much happier with the quality of their lives. Those who did not take up tai chi found no improvement in their symptoms.
However, this is only one study from one university. Professor K Ray, a professor at King’s College London stated: “It is early to claim any neuroprotection based on this study.” He did however, go on to state how impressed he was by tai chi’s effect on aspects of motor and non-motor functions.
Professor K Ray’s opinion is supported by Professor Alastair Noyce who is a professor in neurology and neuro epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London. Professor Noyce insists the study is important yet has limitations. He believes more tests need to be undertaken to confirm the study’s accuracy.
Overall, there are multiple supportive and positive opinions surrounding tai-chi’s ability to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Perhaps for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, it would be worth trying out even if at home in the first instance. Perhaps with the aid of a training video initially then progressing to early morning team workouts in the park.
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