How to Prevent Falls in Old Age With Tai Chi

Tai chi, an ancient Chinese practice, may help prevent falls among seniors, according to a new trial.

The centuries-old Chinese tradition may beat aerobics and strength training to give better balance among the old age.

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According to the researchers, an improved senior-centered tai chi program reduced falls nearly a third, when compared to aerobics and strength training.

Senior researcher Kerri Winters-Stone, a professor with the Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing said;

“This tai chi program better addressed the deficits that were contributing to fall risk. Falling in adults age 65 and older is significantly associated with loss of independence, premature mortality and big health care costs,” Harmer stated.

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Tai chi involves a graceful series of movements. People performing tai chi flow between different postures in a slow and focused way, keeping their body in continuous motion and frequently challenging their balance.

According to researchers, tai chi can help reduce risk of falling, said co-researcher Peter Harmer, a professor of exercise and health science with Willamette University in Salem, Ore.

About 28 percent of U.S. seniors report falling, and 2 out of 5 falls result in injuries leading to an ER visit, hospitalization or death.

The movements of tai chi require people to move in all directions, while traditional exercise programs focus more on forward and backward motion.

If you started to fall by chance, and you had been trained in tai chi, you would probably be better at stabilizing that movement and immediately regain your balance.

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But classical tai chi can involve upwards of 100 different movements, which can be challenging for seniors to learn, Harmer said.

The research team developed a pared-down form of tai chi that concentrates on eight fundamental movements most related to fall prevention for this clinical trial, Harmer said. The trademarked program is called Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance.

The team tested it against both a traditional exercise program and a control group that only performed stretching exercises, in order to see how well the program works.

The research team got 670 participants in Oregon with an average age of nearly 78 and assigned them to one of the three programs. After six months, the tai chi group was 58 percent less likely to have a fall than the stretching group, and the traditional exercise group was 40 percent less likely to fall than people who only stretched.

The tai chi program performed better than traditional exercise when compared against each other. People taking tai chi suffered 31 percent fewer falls than those who took strength training and aerobics courses.

Nathan LeBrasseur, a physical medicine and rehabilitation researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn who wasn’t involved in the study said though tai chi is good, but the traditional exercise shouldn’t be underestimated.

According to LeBrasseur; Though tai chi did work better, people following a traditional exercise program still gain a benefit. I would not discourage people who are actively participating in a strength and aerobic exercise program to throw in the towel and say, ‘Now I need to do tai chi.”

“The real challenge is getting people to adopt and stick to an exercise program.”

Harmer said tai chi not only improves balance, but also improves confidence among the seniors.

Source: Webmd, Image source: CNN

Watch the video below to learn moves for beginners….


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