According to a recent study, tai chi may benefit Parkinson’s disease sufferers. Parkinson’s disease has no known cure, and although current treatments reduce symptoms, they don’t seem to stop the disease’s progression. Parkinson’s disease patients can benefit from physical treatment that teaches their brains to compensate for lost mobility. This helps improve their gait and balance. According to recent studies, practicing tai chi, a Chinese martial art that entails a sequence of slow motions and postures, may help reduce Parkinson’s disease symptoms and decrease the disease’s progression.
The research, which was published on October 24 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, discovered that tai chi practitioners with Parkinson’s disease experienced a slower deterioration in cognitive function than non-practitioners. Parkinson’s disease has no known cure, and although current treatments reduce symptoms, they don’t seem to stop the disease’s progression. According to the researchers, regular exercise, such as tai chi, may help manage symptoms and slow the disease’s progression. Dr. Molly Cincotta, a neurologist at Temple University Hospital and assistant professor of clinical neurology at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, claims that previous research indicates exercise is one of the only interventions that appears to reduce the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s patients’ gait and balance can also be enhanced by physical treatment that teaches brain regions to compensate for lost movement.
Beginning in January 2016, researchers recruited 330 Parkinson’s disease patients to learn how tai chi affects the disease’s symptoms and complications. For the study, the average observation period was 4.3 years. The participants were divided into two groups: 143 engaged in one-hour, twice-weekly tai chi practice, and 187 got normal medical care without engaging in any tai chi exercises. All patients had their disease progression evaluated by the research team at the beginning of the study, and then again in November 2019, October 2020, and June 2021. They examined the degree of mobility, mood, sleep quality, and cognitive abilities of the subjects as well as the autonomic nervous system’s performance (including bowel and urine movements).
The group who practiced tai chi showed slower illness progression, according to the team’s findings. Tai chi practitioners reported better sleep, balance, and cognitive function as well as fewer difficulties. For instance, compared to 7.5% of individuals who did not practice tai chi, 1.4% of those in the tai chi group exhibited dyskinesia. Moreover, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was observed in 2.8% of tai chi practitioners as opposed to 9.6% in the non-tai chi group. Additionally, those who did not practice tai chi used more medications. Compared to 71% of those who consistently practiced Tai Chi, over 83% of people who did not practice the art needed to increase their prescription in 2019. Compared to 87% of individuals who practiced tai chi, over 96% of those who did not practice the kind of meditation required a higher dosage in 2020.
“In patients with idiopathic Parkinson’s disease, this study suggests that regular [tai chi] practice may be beneficial for motor function, sleep, cognition, and overall quality of life,” stated Cincotta. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition primarily marked by the death of brain cells that generate dopamine, a neurotransmitter essential for mood regulation, thought processes, and motor function, among other bodily processes. It’s like trying to drive with the parking brake on when these cells are gone and the brain has less dopamine. Although movement is possible, it is frequently jerky, stiff, and slow, according to Cincotta. According to Cincotta, a deficiency in dopamine can eventually result in tremors, changed facial expressions, a shuffling gait, anxiety, despair, or indifference.
Increased inflammation may also be a result of the disease, and research indicates that the more inflammatory chemicals the body produces, the more severe the symptoms usually are. The primary treatment for Parkinson’s disease is medication. These medications, which work by increasing low dopamine levels, alleviate symptoms but don’t seem to have a major effect on the course of the illness. Furthermore, some medications may become less effective as the illness progresses.
The University of Miami Health System’s chief of the Division of Movement Disorders, Dr. Ihtsham ul Haq, asserts that the only approach to delay the progression of Parkinson’s disease is through exercise. He stated, “Tai chi is a great way to get this benefit, but it’s definitely not the only way.” Scientists are trying to figure out why exercise affects Parkinson’s disease in this way. According to Haq, frequent exercise may alter cellular processes including protein aggregation and mitochondrial function, as well as enhance cardiovascular health and reduce inflammation. Cincotta continued, “Tai chi in particular may support people in maintaining their social connections, which has a positive effect on cognition.”
Haq asserts that it’s difficult to say whether one form of exercise is superior than another. People with Parkinson’s disease should exercise in any way they find rewarding as often as it is convenient for them, according to Haq, as no limit has been identified to the effect. According to recent studies, tai chi may lessen Parkinson’s disease symptoms and delay the disease’s progression. Parkinson’s disease is mostly treated with medication; however, the medications now on the market don’t seem to slow the disease’s progression. Numerous studies indicate that the only intervention that appears to be effective in delaying the course of disease is exercise, such as tai chi.
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