Tai Chi Benefits Seniors as Exercise and Fall Prevention Strategy

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Unfortunately, one’s risk of falling increases with age. As a result, you or your loved one may be interested in learning about popular fall prevention methods. Tai Chi, a martial art and form of exercise, has been shown to have a significant benefit when it comes to fall prevention. New research has found this is especially helpful to seniors.

 

The movements and techniques of Tai Chi are very gentle, making it a great form of exercise for aging adults. Not only does Tai Chi promote general well-being, but the practice also targets balance and mindfulness. These benefits have been found to be directly linked to reducing fall occurrence in seniors as well as boosting confidence. 

 

Tai Chi and other exercises are great steps toward preventing falls. However, aging adults who are concerned about falling should still consider investing in a medical alert system to stay safe.

What Is Tai Chi?

 Tai Chi is an ancient, meditative practice, which originated as a martial art. Today, Tai Chi is a common form of exercise that incorporates movement, breathing, and meditation. Sessions of Tai Chi can last anywhere from 5 minutes to several hours, depending on one’s schedule and commitment to the exercise. Tai Chi has long been recommended as a great way to improve one’s health in a relaxing way. 

 

Tai Chi has different styles with a common foundation of over one hundred movements. Some of the style variations are Chen, Yang, Wu, and Sun. Each style is very similar but has a unique emphasis on specific movements. Constant movement is the goal of Tai Chi. Every pose follows seamlessly after the next, creating fluid movement instead of linear, static poses.  

 

The Tai Chi for Health Institute lists the main principles of Tai Chi:

 

·         Mind/body integration

·         Fluid control of movement and breathing

·         Generating internal energy 

·         Mindfulness 

·         Inner peace 

 

Practitioners of Tai Chi work on these principles during each session through a stretching routine. Beginners can easily learn the movements and carry the principles into their everyday lives. Over time, consistently practicing Tai Chi can improve fitness, balance, flexibility, mood, and mental state, among other benefits. Senior citizens may be interested to know about studies that show Tai Chi can be an effective fall prevention measure. 

Studies Link Tai Chi to Fall Prevention

There are several relevant studies that explore Tai Chi and its relationship to fall outcomes. Many studies used randomized control trials in which some of the participants followed a Tai Chi exercise routine while others did not. This way, every participant in the study met the initial criteria set by the researchers to control for specific variables. Other studies also asked the participants to complete a survey before and after the exercise study to gauge the participants’ balance and fear of falling over time. 

 

Multiple studies come to similar conclusions about Tai Chi and its ability to prevent falls. The significant findings fall into two broad benefits:

 

1.       Tai Chi exercise significantly reduced risk of falls 

2.       Any amount of Tai Chi was found to be effective

 

One study’s results[i]showed that participants who did Tai Chi were 70% less likely to fall compared to the participants who did not exercise. The same study also noted that there were no major differences in effect based on more or less Tai Chi. Participants still benefited from Tai Chi regardless of the training duration or the style of Tai Chi. 

 

Another study[ii] analyzed more detailed results from survey responses. Researchers assessed the participants’ performance on the Time Up and Go (TUG) test, a fall self-efficacy scale, and a balance test. The TUG and balance results improved significantly when compared to the baseline scores as well as to the scores of the participants who did not do Tai Chi. 

 

These studies confirm that Tai Chi does help seniors reduce their fear of falling and, in some cases, fall less frequently. What the studies do not explore, however, is why this is the case. While many of the underlying mechanisms remain uncertain, the reasons why Tai Chi is effective for fall prevention are thought to include the following:    

 

·         Integration of muscular, skeletal, and neural functions that result from Tai Chi movements

·         Improved visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive functions

·         Increased knee extensor and flexor muscle strength

·         Increased bone mineral density

 

These benefits of Tai Chi contribute to its usefulness as a fall prevention strategy. Tai Chi may not be able to prevent all falls, but it can help practitioners become more balanced and confident. Similarly, an Alert1 on-the-go medical alert system can give seniors added peace of mind. 

6 Reasons Why Tai Chi Is a Good Exercise Option for Older Adults

In addition to improving confidence and reducing fall risk, Tai Chi offers several other health and wellness benefits. The exercise is very popular in the senior community because of the low-impact movements and social aspect of the classes. Below, we list some of the key reasons why Tai Chi is a good exercise option for older adults looking to improve health, work on their ability to avoid falls, and try a new exercise. 

 

1.       Aerobic Capacity: Aerobic capacity[i] refers to how well one’s body can intake and use oxygen. Many exercises, including Tai Chi, work on increasing respiratory strength through breathing and cardio. Tai Chi involves deep breathing coordinated with specific movements to promote more complete breaths. Seniors can benefit from an increased aerobic capacity because better breathing helps with stamina as well as stress management. 

2.       Muscular and Core Strength: Consistently practicing Tai Chi builds muscular and core strength over time. Stronger muscles help with managing a healthy weight. Additionally, more muscles provide stability and can help relieve pain. While Tai Chi does not involve weight-lifting or other strenuous exercise, the movements include body weight resistance, which builds muscle. 

3.       Balance and Coordination: Increased balance and coordination are key benefits of Tai Chi. Developing a stronger sense of body awareness can also help older adults better navigate their surroundings. Also, seniors can become more flexible and recover better from a fall. Tai Chi involves constant yet slight movements so that seniors can gradually become more confident and coordinated in their movement. 

4.       Improve Cognitive Function: Tai Chi promotes mindfulness by bringing mind and body into harmony. Participants actively use their memory to recall the next movements and engage their brain to accomplish the steps. Seniors who are in the early stages of mild cognitive impairment or want more enrichment might find Tai Chi helpful in improving their brain’s health. 

5.       Mental Health: A senior’s mental health is related to cognitive function. Older adults often experience depression or anxiety as they age. Participating in Tai Chi can help improve mental health by giving seniors a sense of purpose. Plus, an exercise routine can promote happiness. 

6.       Social Wellbeing: Tai Chi is often offered in a class format, giving seniors the chance to socialize with other participants. Exercising with friends makes it easier to stick to a routine and prevents loneliness. Older adults who want to try Tai Chi may find it easier to learn in a class with other people. 

 

This list is not all-inclusive of the benefits of Tai Chi, and older adults may find individual benefits beyond the physical health effects. If you are interested in trying Tai Chi but do not know where to start, you can look for a local class or consider free introductory videos online. As always, consult your medical provider before engaging in any new activity. Tai Chi is a low-impact, gentle way to potentially reduce fall risk and increase confidence.

Medical Alert Systems Can Complement Your Increased Activity Level

Tai Chi is a popular exercise for older adults that uses gentle movements and has great health benefits. Among those benefits is the proven ability of Tai Chi to reduce the risk of falls. Any amount of Tai Chi exercise in a day can give you these benefits and help your overall physical and mental health. Seniors can be proactive in their fall prevention strategies and take steps to improve their confidence around mobility. 

 

Whether or not you or your loved one decide to practice Tai Chi, if falling is a concern, a medical alert system should be considered. Alert1 offers button alarms with built-in fall detection technology, giving easy and immediate access to a 24/7/365 help center. We invite you to compare devices on our pricing page to figure out which option is best for you.

 

Alert1 is an industry leader in the medical alert space, due to pricing, features, and service. We do not charge for false alarms, which may happen if you accidentally stumble. When you do press the button and seek help, our command center will stay on the line with you until help arrives. Our operators have undergone training and are ready to support and assist you in an emergency. Finally, we offer flexible payment plans so that members do not feel trapped in a lengthy contract like other service providers require. Our products are designed to provide protection wherever you need it. If you try Tai Chi or another form of exercise, Alert1 devices are a great complementary tool. 





 

[1] Hu, Yu-Ning, et al. (2016, September). Effect of Tai Chi Exercise on Fall Prevention in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. International Journal of Gerontology. Effect of Tai Chi Exercise on Fall Prevention in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials.

[1] Hosseini, Lida, et al. (2018, Dec. 14). Tai Chi Chuan can improve balance and reduce fear of falling in community dwelling older adults: a randomized control trial. Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. Tai Chi Chuan can improve balance and reduce fear of falling in community dwelling older adults: a randomized control trial.

[1] Bayless, Kate. (2020, Feb. 21). What Is Aerobic Capacity and How Can You Improve It? Openfit.com. What Is Aerobic Capacity and How Can You Improve It?