One of the worries about getting older is that aging can adversely affect our balance and increases the chance that we can slip and fall. This is even more of a problem in people with loss of sensation in the soles of the feet due to diabetic peripheral neuropathy and other diseases. T’ai Chi Ch’uan has previously been shown to improve balance in healthy elderly adults.
A new study from the Biomedical Engineering Program, Milwaukee School of Engineering, Milwaukee, Wisconsin was just published in the journal Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics.
The aim of the study was to see if T’ai Chi improved both balance and sensory perception in the soles of the feet in healthy elderly adults and elderly adults with diabetes and sensory loss in the feet. Eighteen elderly people with a mean age of 73.1 years were tested for sensation and balance before t’ai chi training and again after 6 months of weekly sessions. Participants were grouped by their initial scores on tests of sensory perception, in order to calculate the effects of t’ai chi on sensory perception.
Plantar (soles of feet) sensation results showed that all the participants showed significant improvement in sensory ability with the 6 months of t’ai chi training. All groups also had a general improvement in all balance measures, with the greatest improvement seen in those subjects with large sensory losses. Hemoglobin A1c measurements – a standard way of estimating control of blood glucose - also decreased as a result of the intervention.
The study was small, but the effectiveness of t’ai chi training as a method of improving plantar sensation and balance in elderly adults with sensory loss, with and without diabetes, was impressive.
Another one of those things that is supposed to be impossible!