Research Matters at the UA College of Nursing: Study Seeks Stroke Survivors for Tai Chi Exercise Class

"Tai chi has been shown to improve balance, strength, flexibility, aerobic endurance, and quality of life in research studies involving people with chronic heart failure or prone to falls."

The University of Arizona College of Nursing is seeking stroke survivors to participate in a free, 12-week program of tai chi to determine if this low-impact, Eastern form of exercise is effective in improving physical functioning or quality of life following a stroke.

The “Tai Chi Exercise for Stroke Survivors Study,” conducted by Assistant Professor Ruth E. Taylor-Piliae, PhD, RN, is looking for Tucson-area adults aged 50 or older who suffered a stroke at least three months ago, and who are currently enrolled in or previously had stroke rehabilitation.

Physical activity and exercise training are important aspects of stroke rehabilitation to reduce disability, and most rehab programs traditionally include western forms of exercise such as cycling or walking, Dr. Taylor-Piliae explained.

Tai chi has been shown to improve balance, strength, flexibility, aerobic endurance, and quality of life in research studies involving people with chronic heart failure or prone to falls, for example. This UA study will examine the effect of a 12-week tai chi exercise intervention on physical functioning, quality of life, and exercise behavior among stroke survivors, compared to the SilverSneakers™ Fitness Program and traditional rehab.

Study participants will be randomly assigned to three months of free tai chi instruction from a tai chi master in Tucson, SilverSneakers classes taught by a certified instructor, or receive weekly phone calls with recommendations for participating in a community-based physical activity program. Participants will be evaluated for balance, strength, walking speed and aerobic endurance at the beginning of the study, immediately after the intervention at 12 weeks, and at a 24-week follow-up.

This study is being funded by an American Heart Association National Scientist Development Grant and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar Grant.

For more information, please call the Tai Chi Research Office at (520) 621-7081, or Dr. Taylor-Piliae at (520) 626-4881. You can also view Dr. Taylor-Piliae discussing her research at http://www.nursing.arizona.edu/scripts/facEdu.asp?txtLoginName=rtaylor