Tai Chi May Help Seniors Avoid Falls
Fitness, Flexibility, Balance, and Confidence Improved in 12-Week Study
WebMD News Archive
June 28, 2005 -- Tai chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, may improve senior
citizens' strength and help them avoid falls, South Korean researchers
"Regular exercise is very important as we get older because when we get
to 65 we start losing muscle strength at a rate of up to two percent per
year" say the researchers in a news release.
It is effective in fall prevention for older people because of improvements
in strength and balance, they say.
The researchers tested tai chi in older adults. The slow, gentle, and
continuous movements help them develop stronger muscles, better balance
control, concentration, and psychological well-being.
They found benefits including:
- Stronger knees and ankles
- Better balance and flexibility
- Improved walking
- More confidence in the ability to avoid falls
The tai chi students had fewer falls than others who didn't take the
'Safe and Easy Exercise'
"Tai chi exercise is recognized as a low-intensity exercise that can be
safely and easily applied to older adults to prevent falls in the
long-term," the researchers write.
They included Jung Hyun Choi, PhD, RN, a lecturer in the nursing department
of South Korea's Daewon Science College.
Their study appears in the Journal of Advanced Nursing.
About Tai Chi
Tai chi uses slow, fluid body movements. It's not a jarring form of
Tai chi has gotten attention from scientists for nearly a decade. The first
two tai chi studies funded by the National Institute of Aging were published in
Those studies found many of the same benefits as seen in the new South
Health experts want everyone to get enough exercise. That includes older
Stronger seniors may be less likely to fall or to hurt themselves if they
fall. That could mean staying independent for a longer time, say Choi and
Falls in Seniors
Every year, about 30% of people aged 65 and older -- and living on their own
-- fall. Falls are more common in long-term care facilities, where 40%-50% of
residents fall in any given year. Some of the risk factors that lead to falls
in seniors include imbalance, muscle weakness, and lack of flexibility -- all
of which are modifiable, they write.
Those figures are cited in Choi's study.
Seniors who fall and are seriously injured may take a long time to
Meanwhile, they may be sidelined from their normal routine. That can lead to
physical decline and depression, writes Choi.
Tai Chi Training
Choi's study included 68 people. They were nearly 78 years old, on
About half of the group took a 12-week tai chi course. The others didn't get
tai chi lessons.
There are different types of tai chi, say Choi and colleagues. They used tai
chi's "sun-style" form in the study.
Strength, Flexibility, Balance
The 12-week program was finished by 29 tai chi students and 30 people in the
The tai chi students had stronger knees and ankles than their peers. They
also improved in flexibility and walking.
Balancing on one foot with their eyes open was easier for the tai chi
students. But standing on one foot with closed eyes was tough for everyone.
Fewer Falls for Tai Chi Students
The tai chi group had fewer falls during the study.
Nine tai chi students had falls. That's 31% of the group. Half of the
comparison group had falls during the same time.
The difference in the number of falls wasn't as big as the researchers
hoped. A larger, longer study should be done for more insight, they say.