Community-based Yang-style Tai Chi is Safe and Feasible in Chronic Stroke: A Pilot Study

OBJECTIVE: Examine the safety and feasibility of a 12-week Tai Chi intervention among stroke survivors.

DESIGN: Two-group, prospective pilot study with random allocation.

SETTING: Outpatient rehabilitation facility.

SUBJECTS: Stroke survivors ≥50 years and at ≥three months post-stroke.

INTERVENTIONS: Tai Chi subjects attended group-based Yang Style classes three times/week for 12-weeks, while Usual Care subjects received weekly phone calls along with written materials/resources for participating in community-based physical activity.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Indicators of study safety and feasibility included recruitment rates, intervention adherence, falls or adverse events, study satisfaction, drop-outs, and adequacy of the outcomes measures.

RESULTS: Interested persons pre-screened by phone (n = 69) were on average 68 years old, (SD = 13) years old, 48% (n = 33) women, 94% (n = 65) were at least three months post-stroke. A total of 28 subjects aged 69 (SD = 11) years enrolled in this pilot study. Intervention adherence rates were very high (≥92%). There were no falls or other adverse events. The dose of Tai Chi exercise (≥150 minutes/week) was well tolerated. Overall study satisfaction was high (8.3 (SD = 1.9); 1 = not satisfied, 10 = most satisfied), while drop-outs (n = 3, 11%) were unrelated to study intervention. Score distributions for the outcome measures were approximately normal, sensitive to change, and seemed to favor the Tai Chi intervention.

CONCLUSIONS: Tai Chi is a safe, community-based exercise program for stroke survivors. Our data suggest that recruitment and retention of an adequate sample is feasible, and that in a full-scale study 52 subjects/group are needed to detect statistically significant between group differences (alpha = 0.05, power = 0.80).