You Can Curb Parkinson’s For Years And Lower Need For Drugs With Tai Chi


Tai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art renowned for its deliberate, slow-paced movements aimed at harnessing the vital energy known as qi, has demonstrated a capacity to decelerate the advancement of Parkinson’s disease in a study involving 147 elderly participants. Published in the BMJ Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, the research revealed that individuals already grappling with this debilitating disorder, upon integrating Tai Chi into their routine, exhibited a reduced dependence on prescribed medications.

Parkinson’s disease, marked by symptoms such as diminished movement speed, resting tremors, and rigid muscles, stands as the fastest-growing neurological condition globally. The projected surge in affected individuals is alarming, with estimates nearing five million in China and 1.2 million in the United States by 2030. Despite the absence of a definitive cure, available drugs can alleviate symptoms, yet they fail to comprehensively address the multifaceted nature of the ailment.

Observing the ubiquitous practice of Tai Chi by elderly individuals in Chinese parks underscores its popularity among those seeking to maintain flexibility, particularly during the winter of their lives. While prior research hinted at the short-term symptomatic relief offered by Tai Chi for Parkinson’s patients, the sustainability of these benefits remained uncertain.

To explore this aspect, Chinese researchers conducted an extensive study over five years, from January 2016 to June 2021, monitoring two groups of Parkinson’s patients. The first group, comprising 147 individuals, engaged in Tai Chi sessions twice a week, each lasting an hour, with instructional classes to enhance their technique. The second group, consisting of 187 patients, adhered to conventional care without incorporating Tai Chi into their regimen.

Formal assessments of disease severity were conducted at the study’s outset, followed by annual evaluations tracking disease progression, including medication dosage adjustments, until 2021. Various additional parameters, such as sleep quality and autonomic nervous system activity, were also scrutinized throughout the monitoring period.

“Disease progression was slower at all monitoring points in the Tai Chi group, as assessed by three validated scales to assess overall symptoms, movement, and balance,” said Dr. Gen Li, the study author from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine.

“The number of patients who needed to increase their medication in the comparison group was also significantly higher than it was in the Tai Chi Group. Cognitive function deteriorated more slowly in the Tai Chi group as did other non-movement symptoms, while sleep and quality of life continuously improved,” he added.

The incidence of complications exhibited a noteworthy reduction within the Tai Chi participant cohort as compared to the group subjected to the comparative intervention. According to Dr. Li, study participants reported experiencing falls, dizziness, and back pain as the three primary side effects, yet their occurrences were consistently and significantly lower among those engaged in Tai Chi activities.

“Our study has shown that Tai Chi retains the long-term beneficial effect on [Parkinson’s disease], indicating the potential disease-modifying effects on both motor and non-motor symptoms, especially gait, balance, autonomic symptoms, and cognition,” Dr. Li stated.

“The long-term beneficial effect could prolong the time without disability, leading to a higher quality of life, a lower burden for caregivers, and less drug usage.”

Tai Chi may appear intricate at first glance, but its complexity is deceptive. The practice is grounded in fundamental movements that seamlessly transition between each other, creating the illusion of numerous distinct actions when, in essence, there are only eight basic forms.

In the vast expanse of online resources dedicated to yoga, a comparable abundance of Tai Chi lessons and practices can also be found. The internet serves as a repository for a wealth of Tai Chi content, making this ancient martial art and form of exercise accessible to a global audience seeking its physical and mental benefits.