T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a Chinese martial art that has been practiced for nearly 200 years that translated into English means “Supreme Ultimate Fist.” It emphasizes the mental state and focus required to perform the series of movements precisely. The movements are designed to redirect blows, not stop them. It focuses on coordination and leverage, not force- both in body and in mind.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder where movement, coordination and balance become progressively impaired. There is also an increased chance of depression, not only from the neurological changes, but the reduction in mobility and impending death from the disease. There is no cure for Parkinson’s so much of the therapies for the disease focus on maintaining mobility, reducing symptoms, and keeping patients as functional and happy as possible.
In a study released this week, researchers discovered that patients with Parkinson’s disease had reduced balance impairment, fewer falls (a potentially devastating event for an elderly person) and improved functional capacity when they practiced Tai Chi compared to resistance training and stretching.
This is powerful evidence that exercise that incorporates mindfulness has benefits over more typical regimens. The advantages of exercise go beyond the mere improved strength and flexibility. The coordination and awareness fostered by Tai Chi clearly have benefits for overall function by strengthening the relationship between body and mind.
Dr. Bruce Feinberg