Tai Chi Prevents Falls and Boosts Balance Confidence

Tai Chi has been shown to be very safe for elderly, frail, and de-conditioned people who often have poor balance.

In older people, good balance prevents falls and provides confidence to sustain physical and social activities.

Not surprisingly, Tai Chi is increasingly being adopted in community programs for balance rehabilitation and fall prevention.

Two new meta-analyses show that Tai Chi is, indeed, a good exercise for fall prevention and balance.

One overview analyzed 35 systematic reviews assessing the health effects of Tai Chi.

The Korean and British researchers found Tai Chi helps to reduce the risk of falls and to improve balance in older people.

The second systematic review examined 30 studies that looked at balance confidence among older adults.

The Israeli researchers found Tai Chi was the most beneficial in increasing balance confidence when compared to exercise and other multifactorial interventions.

How does Tai Chi help?

The effectiveness of Tai Chi is due to its multiple components, says Peter Wayne, PhD, Director of Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Programs, Harvard Medical School’s Osher Research Center.

1. Tai Chi is a weight bearing exercise.

It involves a constant shifting of weight from one leg to the other and lots of one-legged standing with the knees bent, which facilitates improved dynamic standing balance and strength of the legs, ankles, and feet.

2. With Tai Chi, your sensory systems become sensitized, which leads to better balance and function.

Tai Chi’s continuous, slow, even tempo facilitates sensory awareness of the speed, force, trajectory, and execution of movements, as well as awareness of the external environment.

3. The sequencing, timing, and combinations of different muscle groups in Tai Chi helps coordinate neuromuscular patterns.

The quiet standing of Tai Chi enhances the ability to stand upright with optimal efficiency.

More importantly, it also improves your balance as you move and helps you deal with perturbations in balance, for example, when you walk on a rocky road.

4. Tai Chi improves balance and reduces falls by reducing the fear of falling.

Many studies show that Tai Chi reduces the fear of falling, which is one of the biggest predictors of falls.

This is probably because Tai Chi is such a holistic intervention that enhances awareness, cognitive training, and provides more confidence from better strength.

“Based on systematic reviews of exercise and falls prevention, Tai Chi may be one of the better exercises you can do,” says Wayne.

“The diverse, multiple active ingredients inherent in Tai Chi allow you to compensate for deficiencies in the physiological and cognitive components that underlie balance loss.”

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