Tai Chi–Based Exercise for Older Adults with Parkinson’s Disease: A Pilot-Program Evaluation

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Fuzhong Li
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Peter Harmer
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K. John Fisher
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Junheng Xu
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Kathleen Fitzgerald
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Naruepon Vongjaturapat
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The primary objective of this study was to provide preliminary evaluation of the feasibility, safety, and efficacy of a newly developed Tai Chi-based exercise program for older adults with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Using a one-group pretest-posttest design, 17 community-dwelling adults (mean age 71.51 years) with mild to moderate idiopathic PD (Stage I, II, or III on the Hoehn and Yahr scale) and stable medication use completed a 5-day, 90-min/day Tai Chi exercise-evaluation program. Outcome measures included face-to-face exit interviews on appropriateness and safety and physical performance (i.e., 50-ft speed walk, up-and-go, functional reach). At the end of this brief intervention, exercise adherence was 100% and the program was shown to be safe. Exit interviews indicated that the program was well received by all participants with respect to program appropriateness, participant satisfaction and enjoyment, and intentions to continue. Furthermore, a significant pretest-to-posttest change was observed at the end of the 5-day program in all three physical-performance measures (p < .05). The results of this pilot evaluation suggest that Tai Chi is an appropriate physical activity for older adults with PD and might also be useful as a therapeutic exercise modality for improving and maintaining physical function. These preliminary findings warrant further investigation.

Li and Fisher are with the Oregon Research Institute, 1715 Franklin Blvd., Eugene, OR 87403. Harmer is with the Dept. of Exercise Science, Willamette University, Salem, OR 97301. Xu is with Coach Xu Institute, 33527 5th PL SW, Federal Way, WA 98023. Fitzgerald is a physician with a practice limited to neurology, 960 North 16th Street, Suite 207, Springfield, OR 97477. Vongjaturapat is with the College of Sport Science, Burapha University, Bangsaen, Chonburi 20131 Thailand.

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