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Tai Chi could reduce risk of falls and improve balance

20th February 2019


A new study has found that the ancient Chinese art of Tai Chi could help cut the risk of falls in older people by a fifth.

The Cochrane Review, which was conducted by Oxford University and the University of Sydney, showed that older members of society who enrolled in fitness classes to improve their strength were less likely to suffer from potentially fatal falls.

The Telegraph reported on the study which assessed 23,407 people who took part in 108 trials across 25 countries. The research found that classes which aimed to improve balance and functional exercise cut the risk of falls by 23%.

The average age of the people in the study was 76 years old, and three-quarters of participants were female.

The Telegraph stated: “The trials involved pensioners living independently at home as well as those in retirement villages, or in sheltered accommodation. The review found that exercise programmes carried out in group classes or done at home prescribed by a physiotherapist were effective.

“Exercises were mostly done while standing as this better enhances balance and the ability to do daily activities such as standing up from a low chair.”

The NHS says Tai Chi combines deep breathing and relaxation with flowing movements.

It stated: “Studies have shown that it can help people over the age of 65 to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility as well as increasing muscle strength in the legs.”

More than 37 million falls are severe enough to require medical attention each year, claims Oxford University’s report.

The report stated: “The review found that exercise programmes carried out in group classes or done at home prescribed by a health professional, such as a physiotherapist, or a trained exercise leader were effective. 

“The results of the studies varied so the researchers assessed different types of exercise programmes to see how they compared. There is high certainty evidence that programmes that mainly involve balance and functional exercises reduce falls, while there was less certainty about programmes that include multiple exercise categories.”

On average, those taking part in all exercise programmes had 23% fewer falls than those who did not, while Tai Chi was found to reduce the rate of falls by 19 per cent.

Researchers found that the results were less clear on whether exercises that don’t focus on balance, like walking and dancing, could reduce the risk of falls.

One of the authors of the study, Professor Cathie Sherrington from The University of Sydney, Institute for Musculoskeletal Health said: “This evidence helps build an even stronger picture that exercise can help prevent older people having falls. It also illustrates which types of exercise can be beneficial.

“It is well known that keeping active promotes good health but this review pinpoints which types of exercise are more likely to be effective for preventing falls.”

Professor Sherrington also added that more work is needed to establish the impact of exercise on fall-related fractures and falls requiring medical attention.

Doing some Tai Chi at home is a great way for older people or those who might make use of mobility aids, including stairlifts, to incorporate some light exercise into their routine without having to travel. 

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.