Have a Fear of Falling? Tai Chi May Help
According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the "leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans," and the problem appears to be getting worse. One study found that self-reported falls among adults aged 65 or older increased from around 28 percent in 1998 to more than 36 percent in 2010. Now, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has looked closely at the ancient art of movement known as tai chi, as a way to reduce the risk of falling among older adults.
Researchers led by Rafael Lomas-Vega, Ph.D., of the University of Jaén in Spain, analyzed data from 10 previous studies, with participants ranging in age from 56 to 98. In the short term (less than 12 months), tai chi — which is designed to improve coordination and flexibility — reduced falls by 43 percent compared with other interventions. Over a longer period (more than 12 months) the rate of falls fell by 13 percent. But tai chi did not appear to affect when someone was likely to have a first fall that resulted in injury.
Despite the reduction in the rate of falls, the researchers remained cautious. "Due to the small number of published studies," Prof. Lomas-Vega pointed out, "further research is needed to investigate the effect of tai chi on injurious falls and time to first fall."