Posted on Aug 16, 2017, 6 a.m.
Tai Chi may help protect against falls, the primary cause of traumatic death for older adults.
Good balance is essential for normal physical function since it allows people to enjoy a full range of activities and keeps them safe by preventing accidental falls. Some people tend to lose their sense of balance as they age, so seniors sometimes suffer injuries that include broken bones and debilitating injuries. Younger disabled individuals can also be at risk since their sense of balance is not at full capacity due to their physical limitations.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise practice that is focused on improving the flexibility of the body, and therefore it also leads to an improvement in functional balance. Spanish researchers conducted a series of 10 trials for seniors and at-risk adults using Tai Chi sessions to determine if this type of therapy could improve their sense of balance.
The 10 research studies involved one hour sessions one, two or three times each week, and the length of the interventions varied between 12 to 26 weeks. The short-term results of these studies showed significant evidence that the intervention reduced the number of falls by 43 percent during the following 12 months. After 12 months the reduction of falls was decreased to 13 percent.
Although research involving Tai Chi as a useful therapy to improve the balance and reduce injury in populations that are most likely to experience falls is limited, elder care facilities do use balance training programs to help protect their patients. Records show that approximately one-third of seniors 65 and over suffer serious falls due to impaired balance, and falls are the primary cause of injury related death. Therefore, any program that improves the balance and physical ability of seniors is worthwhile.
Rafael Lomas-Vega et al, Tai Chi for Risk of Falls. A Meta-analysis, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2017). DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15008