Tai Chi Reduces Falls and Improves Brain Function

Caregiver, patient expert

Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese practice, is a self-paced system of movement where you perform a series of postures in a slow, graceful manner. This form of gentle exercise helps lower stress levels and encourages focus. Recently, the National Institutes of Health has said that tai chi has the ability to help reduce falls in older people, as well.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people over 65. I can attest to that, since frequent falls - as in nearly daily - were partly responsible for the final decision that my mother and I jointly made for her to join my dad in a nearby nursing home.

I doubt that I could have talked my mother into learning tai chi. However, I have been doing my own rather modified version of yoga and a regular session of meditation for decades and am considering learning tai chi so to help maintain my sense of balance as I age.

Tai Chi may help brain as well as balance

It’s unlikely a person will pull muscles or put too much strain on the heart while practicing tai chi. The benefits of relaxation, improved flexibility and mental focus can be considerable since the combination of these factors contributes to an overall sense of wellbeing.

Even better, a 2012 study conducted by scientists from the University of South Florida, along with researchers from Fudan University in Shanghai, found that Tai Chi may improve brain function.

Certainly, more studies would have to be done before clear proof is shown that tai chi can improve our brain function, however most doctors promote exercise and flexibility for health reasons. They will endorse meditation if it helps to calm a stressed or anxious person. They will encourage mild yoga for many. I believe it's likely that they would also encourage tai chi. However, as with all exercise, clear it with your doctor before you begin.

The NIH offers this visual on the practice of tai chi.

Carol is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. She runs award winning websites at _ www.mindingourelders.com and __www.mindingoureldersblogs.com_On Twitter, f_ollow Carol @mindingourelder and on Facebook: _Minding Our Elders

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