Friday, February 17, 2012

Research: Tai Chi Classes for Seniors

New Research Regarding
Tai Chi / Taiji Classes for Seniors 
Steve Contes
New Port Richey FL.
Once again I refer to some additional research conducted by Fuzhong Li, Ph.D. of the Oregon Research Institute, and colleagues. The research piece can be found below my brief introduction. 

I have personally seen my Senior Students greatly improve their strength, balance, energy levels, flexibility, coordination, and overall health (physical and mental) with a steady diet of Tai Chi in their weekly schedules. It also provides a social atmosphere where students can make new friends, share common interests and often develop new ones.  I sincerely hope that the type of research presently available encourages the Senior population to get out there and see for themselves how Taiji can enrich their lives. No matter what you perceive your present physical condition or state of health, you can engage in the practice of Taiji. I also caution potential students to train only with a qualified Taiji Instructor. If you have any questions on how to go about the task of locating one, contact me directly and I will try my best to assist you in your search (where ever you are residing).

 As I said in the last blog (Tai Chi as  Treatment for Parkinson’s) I am extremely appreciative of Fuzhong Li Ph.D.and his colleagues for all their efforts and also willingness to share their findings regarding how Taiji (Tai Chi)   can benefit those addressing issues associated with aging or any other health complications.

Physical Training Jan 2002
Tai Chi Good Way
For Elderly People To Return To Exercise
The low-impact Chinese exercise, Tai Chi, can help older people regain some of the physical functioning that they may have lost to inactivity, according to a new study.
Seniors taking Tai Chi classes reported better physical functioning both at the three-month midpoint and the six-month end of the pilot study, says Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., of the Oregon Research Institute, and colleagues.
The study included 72 people between the ages of 65 and 96 who were split into a group that went to an hour-long class twice a week for six months and a control group that was promised a four-week class at the end of the study.
"We found significant improvements within three months on a low-intensity program conducted twice a week. Our results also showed improved benefits from six months of participation, suggesting that additional health gains can be derived from a longer period of participation," the researchers say.
The study is published in the May issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.
They contrast this with previous research on exercise programs that suggests much longer periods are needed to show significant improvements in functioning.
On completion of the study, the Tai Chi students were also twice as likely as the control group to report not being limited in their ability to perform moderate-to-vigorous activities.
In comparison to previous research, which shows that half of sedentary people are unable to maintain a newly adopted exercise program, these findings were also unique in that only 18 percent of participants dropped out of the Tai Chi class. The researchers suggest Tai Chi may offer a particularly attractive form of fitness activity for this population. Members of the classes described the lessons as a positive experience with wide ranging benefits that both energized and relaxed them. They felt it had helped them build better flexibility, balance and strength.
The researchers did note that since the study recruited volunteers for the study, the participants may have been more motivated than other sedentary elderly people to exercise.
The study cost approximately $9,000.
Through grants from the National Institute on Aging, the researchers are continuing their    examination of the effects of Tai Chi on seniors' health outcomes, such as falls, physical ability and long-term health behaviors.

Annals of Behavioral Medicine is the official peer-reviewed publication of The Society of Behavioral Medicine. For information about the journal, contact Robert Kaplan, PhD, (858) 534-6058. For copies of the article, contact the Center for the Advancement of Health at 202.387.2829 or e-mail
Center for the Advancement of Health Contact: Ira R. Allen Director of Public Affairs  202.387.2829
Contact: Fuzhong Li, Ph.D. (541) 484-2123 (ext. 2137)     or John Fisher (541) 484-2123 (ext. 2228)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tai Chi (Taiji) as a Treatment for Parkinson’s

Tai Chi (Taiji) as a Treatment for Parkinson’s
Written by Steve Contes / FL based Tai Chi instructor(I am not a doctor nor am I a professional in any medical field)
The New England Journal of Medicine recently posted some interesting research which prompted me to write this article and share their findings.
 (My personal beliefs are that not only does Taiji aid in the physical aspects of this disease, but it is also a potent tool to ease the mental and emotional states often associated with Parkinson’s and many other diseases. This article and related research focuses on the physical challenges as related to Parkinson’s)
Taiji is no longer shrouded in mystery for those seeking to understand this eastern-based art.
That also includes the western Medical World. Thanks to the efforts of Doctors such as Fuzhong Li, Ph.D, Dr Yang Yang and many others we are now seeing the long awaited marriage of Eastern and Western philosophies regarding health.  Maybe in my optimistic state of mind I’m jumping the gun, so let me rephrase the above statement. “The engagement announcement of Eastern and Western philosophies regarding health”. It seems that we still have a ways to go. You might say that the parents of this couple have more than a few hurtles in front of them and they are not exactly holding their glasses high and toasting one and other (yet).  However, they are beginning to understand each other better and actually agreeing on certain concepts (or sitting in the same room so to speak). One of those being Taiji as a viable tool for treating some of the diseases that continue to challenge western medicine.  The New England Journal of Medicine is no stranger to controversy related to what they will publish. It is certainly not always in accordance with typical western medicine’s way of thinking.  Last week an article was published based on the works of   Fuzhong Li, Ph.D., Peter Harmer, Ph.D., M.P.H., Kathleen Fitzgerald, M.D., Elizabeth Eckstrom, M.D., M.P.H., Ronald Stock, M.D., Johnny Galver, P.T., Gianni Maddalozzo, Ph.D., and Sara S. Batya, M.D.
N England  Journal  Medicine  2012; 366:511-519     February 9, 2012
I commend them and greatly appreciate the efforts of  Fuzhong Li, Ph.D and his colleagues.  Also with his permission I present to you a condensed version of their report including their conclusion as posted on the site of The New England Journal of Medicine. 

Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson's Disease


Patients with Parkinson's disease have substantially impaired balance, leading to diminished functional ability and an increased risk of falling. Although exercise is routinely encouraged by health care providers, few programs have been proven effective.


We conducted a randomized, controlled trial to determine whether a tailored tai chi program could improve postural control in patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease. We randomly assigned 195 patients with stage 1 to 4 disease on the Hoehn and Yahr staging scale (which ranges from 1 to 5, with higher stages indicating more severe disease) to one of three groups: tai chi, resistance training, or stretching. The patients participated in 60-minute exercise sessions twice weekly for 24 weeks. The primary outcomes were changes from baseline in the limits-of-stability test (maximum excursion and directional control; range, 0 to 100%). Secondary outcomes included measures of gait and strength, scores on functional-reach and timed up-and-go tests, motor scores on the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale, and number of falls.


The tai chi group performed consistently better than the resistance-training and stretching groups in maximum excursion (between-group difference in the change from baseline, 5.55 percentage points; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.12 to 9.97; and 11.98 percentage points; 95% CI, 7.21 to 16.74, respectively) and in directional control (10.45 percentage points; 95% CI, 3.89 to 17.00; and 11.38 percentage points; 95% CI, 5.50 to 17.27, respectively). The tai chi group also performed better than the stretching group in all secondary outcomes and outperformed the resistance-training group in stride length and functional reach. Tai chi lowered the incidence of falls as compared with stretching but not as compared with resistance training. The effects of tai chi training were maintained at 3 months after the intervention. No serious adverse events were observed.


Tai chi training appears to reduce balance impairments in patients with mild-to-moderate Parkinson's disease, with additional benefits of improved functional capacity and reduced falls. (Funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; number, NCT00611481.)
Supported by a grant (NS047130) from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this article at
No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.
We thank all the study participants (in Eugene, Corvallis, Salem, and Portland) for their support and dedication to this research project; the neurologists for providing medical clearance and Parkinson's disease stage diagnoses for their participating patients; the project instructors (Vicki Anderson, Denise Thomas-Morrow, Don Hildenbrand, Brian McCall, James Lusk, Nancy Nelson, Teena Hall, Machiko Shirai, and Julie Tye); the research assistants (Debbie Blanchard, Kristen Briggs, Ruben Guzman, Daehan Kim, Lisa Marion, Arissa Fitch-Martin, Kimber Mattox, Julia Mazur, Donna McElroy, Jordyn Smith, and Rachel Tsolinas); the physical therapists (Andrea Serdar, Jeff Schlimgen, Jennifer Wilhelm, Ryan Rockwood, and Connie Amos at Oregon Health and Science University); the study data analyst, Shanshan Wang; Kathryn Madden and the members of the institutional review board at the Oregon Research Institute for their careful scrutiny of the study protocol; and Ron Renchler for proofreading earlier drafts of the manuscript.

Source Information

From the Oregon Research Institute (F.L.), the Oregon Medical Group (K.F.), and the PeaceHealth Medical Group–Oregon (R.S.) — all in Eugene; Willamette University (P.H.) and BPM Physical Therapy Center (J.G.) — both in Salem, OR; Oregon Health and Science University, Portland (E.E.); Oregon State University, Corvallis (G.M.); and Oregon Neurology Associates, Springfield (S.S.B.).
Address reprint requests to Dr. Li at the Oregon Research Institute,
1715 Franklin Blvd., Eugene, OR 97403
, or at