12th February 2012 - New research
New England Journal of Medicine  366 (6) : 511-519 (F.Li, P.Harmer, K.Fitzgerald, E.Eckstrom, R.Stock, J.Galver, G.Maddalozzo, S.S.Batya) People with Parkinson's Disease tend to have impaired balance, and an increased risk of falling. A clinical trial assessed the effect of Tai Chi on postural control in Parkinson's Disease. Tai Chi is a traditional Chinese martial art and form of exercise. For more information go to Tai Chi. Participants took part in 60-minute exercise sessions twice weekly for 24 weeks. Although the researchers claimed that Tai Chi performed consistently better than other methods, the improvement was only 5% better than resistance training, and 12% better than stretching exercises. The Tai Chi group 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 when compared with stretching exercises but not when compared with resistance training.
Out of the previous studies in the medical literature concerning Tai Chi and Parkinson's Disease, four were either non-randomised or uncontrolled clinical trials. Two failed to show any effect. Only one study showed Tai Chi to be superior to conventional exercise for Parkinson's Disease. So the evidence is insufficient to suggest that Tai Chi is effective in Parkinson's Disease.