WEDNESDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The ancient Chinese discipline of Tai Chi may help modern-day stroke patients avoid debilitating falls, a small new study suggests.
Stroke survivors suffer seven times as many falls as healthy adults. These falls can cause fractures, decrease mobility and increase the fear of falling, which can lead to social isolation or dependence on others, the researchers noted.
"Learning how to find and maintain your balance after a stroke is a challenge," lead author Ruth Taylor-Piliae, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, in Tucson, said in an American Stroke Association news release.
Taylor-Piliae's team tracked 89 people, who had an average age of 70 and had suffered a stroke an average of three years before the start of the study. Twenty-eight of the patients received usual care, 31 were assigned to a national fitness program for Medicare-eligible seniors called SilverSneakers and 30 practiced Tai Chi.
Tai Chi, an exercise routine that dates back to ancient China, includes physical movement, mental concentration and relaxed breathing.
The people in the Tai Chi and SilverSneakers programs did one-hour classes three times a week for 12 weeks. The usual-care group received a weekly phone call and written material about physical activity.
During the three months of the study, the participants suffered a total of 34 falls in their homes, mainly from slipping or tripping. There were 15 falls in the usual-care group, 14 falls in the SilverSneakers group and only five falls in the Tai Chi group, according to the findings, which were to be presented Wednesday at the annual meeting of the American Stroke Association in Honolulu.
"Tai Chi is effective in improving both static and dynamic balance, which is important to prevent falls," Taylor-Piliae said. She added that Tai Chi is also "readily available in most U.S. cities and is relatively ine
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