Tai Chi as an exercise for Parkinson's
Tai Chi is one of the scientifically proven exercises that improves balance, core strength, range of motion in order to prevent or decrease falls in people with Parkinsons.
Proven Benefits of Tai Chi as an exercise for Parkinson's
Parkinson’s is a movement disorder which gradually affects an individual over time. Parkinson’s disease erodes balance, core strength and walking ability. Tai Chi has been proven to improve balance, and prevent falls. It has also been proven to improve core stability (which in turn improves balance). It has a calming influence on those who practice it to be able to focus and decrease anxiety and improve nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson's such as anxiety.
What is Tai Chi ?
Tai Chi is a form of Chinese Martial arts that has been around for many years. It is a graceful, movement based exercise that emphasizes balance, range of motion, core strengthening and leg strength. People learn and go through movement sequences which have names like: Parting the Wild Horse's Mane, Repulse Monkey and Move Mountain. It is a great form of exercise for people with Parkinson's, as well as older people in general. In China, it is a group based community exercise. Maybe you’ve seen it on tv where large groups of people gather in a park and go though whole groups of movement patterns together.
Tai Chi as a balance exercise for Parkinson's
When practicing Tai Chi, one challenges balance by placing the feet in different positions for strength, defense and mobiity. There is constant dynamic movement of the legs and feet combined with weightshifting when practicing Tai Chi. Tai Chi strengthens the lower extremities, as it challenges one to achieve different positions in the hips, knees and ankles. One of the most important aspects of Tai Chi for Parkinson's is weight shifting. Body weight is shifted in many different ways. Front to back, side to side and diagonally. Weight is also shifted in conjunction with graceful arm movements. This creates a series of really dynamic exercises and positions to strengthen legs, trunk and arms.
How does Tai Chi Help the Parkinson’s Brain ?
Parkinson’s is a disease which gradually erodes motor pathways. The pathways in the brain which tell our muscles what to do or how to move gradually deteriorate over time with PD. But the brain is “plastic” It has the ability ot form new connections. Tai Chi is a form of exercise which challenges us to form new connections. We need to remember the sequencing of the different movement patterns. We have to challenge our bodies to move in different ways in order to create new pathways. We have to multitask or do more than one task at the same time. This is one of the healthier things we can do to is to give our brain the opportunity to create new connections and create new pathways.