Study Finds Tai Chi Can Reduce Risk Of Dangerous Falls For The Elderly By Up To 64%
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According to the well-known U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three American adults age over 65 falls each year. Some of these falls are fatal, with older adults more susceptible to risk for falls due to lack of exercise, diseases, medications, and vision problems. This danger is cited as one of the leading causes of injury and death in elderly people. 
A fascinating study published in May 2017 revealed that seniors who practice tai chi, a Chinese meditation practice, may be less likely to fall than their peers who don’t engage themselves in this type of exercise.  This study presents evidence on the role of tai chi in improving balance and preventing falls, especially for older adults.
The authors claim that their study is the most comprehensive systematic review that has yet evaluated tai chi for preventing falls. They considered data from other recently published trials to improve the precision of the estimated effects of tai chi on fall prevention. They divided the study’s participants in two groups – one group received tai chi lessons while another group didn’t get the intervention.
The researchers confirmed the link between tai chi and lower risk of falling when they accounted several factors including the frequency of practicing tai chi, the amount of time spent on doing the exercises, the style of tai-chi used, and the falling risk for individual patients. When the frequency of tai chi sessions was increased, spectacular improvements were noted – with risk reduction improved twelve-fold – or from 5% to 64%.
Previous studies have shown the value of tai chi for improving balance, flexibility, and strength of knee extension in older adults, according to Dr. Chenchen Wang of the Center for Complimentary and Integrative Medicine at Tufts Medical Center. Wang cited several components of tai chi that contribute to the meditation’s fall prevention impact – including breathing techniques, awareness of the body, balance, mindfulness, and relaxation. 
This work builds upon research undertaken in previous studies: In 2008, a Chinese study demonstrated the significant protective effect of tai chi on fall risk among older adults.  The study proposed the development of optimal tai chi training programs for older adults.
In 2005, American researchers evaluated the efficacy of a 6-month tai chi prevention for decreasing the risk of falling in older persons.  They concluded that a tai chi program could improve functional balance and performance in sedentary persons aged 70 years or older.
Findings from other studies also highlight the potential of tai chi in improving mental balance and reducing stress. There is a growing body of carefully conducted research that posits tai chi as an adjunct standard medical treatment for medical conditions commonly associated with age. One of them is arthritis which affects 54.4 million American adults, according to the CDC.  Tai chi is recommended by the health agency as an exercise program to improve the quality of life of arthritis sufferers. 
The financial toll from falls among older adults amounted to an astonishing $31 billion in 2015. Costs are expected to increase as the population of U.S. seniors is projected to reach 20% of the country’s population by 2030.  This scenario underlines the economic impact of tai chi, which appears set to play an important role in preventing falls and other chronic conditions.
 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 11, 2016. Important Facts About Falls https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
 Zhi-Guan H et al. 2017. British Medical Journal Open. Systematic review and meta-analysis: Tai Chi for preventing falls in older adults http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/2/e013661
 Park M and Song R. 2013. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing. Effects of Tai Chi on fall risk factors: a meta-analysis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23893224
 Yu-Ning H et al. September 2016. International Journal of Gerontology. Effect of Tai Chi Exercise on Fall Prevention in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1873959816300746
 Li F. 2005. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. Tai Chi and fall reductions in older adults: a randomized controlled trial https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15814861
 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Arthritis-Related Statistics https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis-related-stats.htm
 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis: Intervention Watchlist https://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/interventions/program_lists.htm
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