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Tai Chi May Help Parkinson’s Patients Regain Balance

Tai chi, the Chinese martial art involving slow and rhythmic movement, has been shown to benefit older people by maintaining balance and strength. Now, researchers have found that tai chi also helps patients who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

Leona Maricle was diagnosed with Parkinson’s two years ago. At the time, she was teaching math, and she says she had experienced the telltale tremors of Parkinson’s for a number of years. She learned how to cope.

“The students began to notice that my hands were trembling,” she recalls, “so I started learning how to compensate by keeping that hand under the table and using the other hand to pass out papers, interact with students and hand out pencils.”

But soon it became clear that Maricle just couldn’t give teaching her “best” anymore. She retired at age 67.

Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system, affects movement and motor control. “I would need to think two or three times about moving a particular part of my body,” says Maricle. “When I was sitting in a chair and needed to get up, it would take two or three mental messages to my muscles to actually move my body.”

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