Tai Chi: Best Bet To Help Prevent Falls
Tai chi is a gentle form of exercise that can help develop strength, balance and flexibility. In fact, practicing this traditional Chinese “shadow boxing” appears to work better than other types of exercise to reduce the number of falls among seniors and others at high risk of falling. A team of Spanish investigators compiled the results of 10 randomized controlled trials that compared the effects of tai chi, physical therapy and low intensity exercise as well as other approaches aimed at preventing falls. The researchers found what they described as “high-quality evidence” that tai chi reduced the rate of falls by 43 percent compared with other interventions at short-term follow up (less than 12 months) and by 13 percent over periods longer than 12 months. They also found evidence that tai chi reduced the risk of injurious falls by 50 percent over the short term and by 28 percent over the long term. However, because there have been so few studies of tai chi among seniors and others at risk of falling, the Spanish team concluded that more research is needed to determine how effective this practice is at lowering the risk of harmful falls in this demographic.
My take? I view tai chi as an effective form of mental and physical stimulation, and very beneficial for overall health. Like yoga, tai chi is a reliable method of stress reduction and relaxation, and it promotes flexibility, balance, and good body awareness. It is pleasing to watch and perform, and as this study suggests, it may be the best type of exercise to reduce the risk of injury from falls among seniors.
Rafael Lomas-Vega et al, Tai Chi for Risk of Falls. A Meta-analysis.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, July 24, 2017; DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15008
Also in this week’s health bulletin:
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