Tai Chi May Prevent Falls in The Elderly

Tai chi is a mind-body approach that involves slow, rhythmic and repetitive movements with emphasis on breathing. This non-competitive, self-paced system of gentle, graceful flowing movements and stretching helps patients relax, enhance body strength, flexibility and mobility while relieving stress and anxiety.

The updated guidelines

In their first update since 2001, the guidelines recommend programs like the slow-motion Chinese martial art tai chi along with other physical therapy that target strength, gait, and balance to help prevent falls among older adults. Falls among the elderly are closely associated with an increased risk for hip and other fractures and head injuries, all of which can lead to reduced independence, early hospitalization for long-term treatments, and even death. “Given the frequency of falls and the injuries that occur as a result, falling is as big of a problem as heart attack and stroke, and we need to start taking it as seriously because falls are preventable,” says guideline author Mary Tinetti, MD, a geriatrician at Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., according to health website WebMD.com. “The most effective way to prevent falls is to reduce medication, make the environment as safe as possible, and improve balance and gait through exercises including tai chi or physical therapy.” “Multifactorial” interventions recommended To develop the updated guidelines, Tinetti and other panel members reviewed studies that focused at fall prevention interventions published between May 2001 and April 2008. The new guidelines now recommend that interventions be “multifactorial” and include an exercise component and assess feet, footwear, fear of falling, ability to go about daily living, and other factors. “Falls are one of the most common health problems experienced by older adults and are a common cause of losing functional independence,” Tinetti said.

About Tai Chi

Tai chi is the traditional Chinese exercise system that uses slow, smooth body movements to achieve a state of relaxation of both body and mind. This gentle, non-violent form of exercise which is partly derived from Chinese martial arts and Taoism (a Chinese philosophical system) consists of 108 complex, slow-motion movements that encourage mental and physical harmony. Also called tai chi chuan, the practice combines meditation with slow, gentle physical exercise, deep breathing and relaxation. To do tai chi, an individual performs a series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that his/her body is in constant motion.