Taipei: Regularly practicing the Chinese exercise tai chi that combines certain postures and gentle movements with mental focus, breathing, and relaxation can help older adults reduce the risk of falling down, says a study.
Tai chi can be practiced while you are walking, standing, or even seated. Deep breathing, weight shifting, and leg stepping movements are part of the practice.
"I suggest that older adults learn tai chi exercises in a class, and practice at home at least once a day," said study co-author Mau-Roung Lin, professor at Taipei Medical University in Taipei, Taiwan.
The researchers compared the effects of tai chi to leg strengthening exercises (a physical therapy called "lower extremity training" or LET) in reducing falls.
They assigned 368 people 60-years-old and older who had received medical attention for a fall into one of two groups.
The first group received hour-long individual tai chi classes conducted by instructors every week for six months.
The second group received individual, hour-long LET sessions for six months conducted by physical therapists. Sessions included stretching, muscle strengthening, and balance training.
The researchers asked participants in both the groups to complete at least 80 percent of their sessions, and also to practice either tai chi or LET at home every day during the six-month programme and the 12-month follow-up.
After six months of training, people in the tai chi group were significantly less likely to experience an injury-causing fall than were people in the LET group.
Even a year after taking the training, people who took tai chi were about 50 percent less likely to experience an injury-causing fall compared to people in the LET group, showed the findings published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.