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WASHINGTON - A new study showed that Tai Ji Quan (also known as Tai Chi), a kind of Chinese martial art practiced for both defense training and health benefits, can help significantly reduce falls in older adults.
According to the study published in the latest issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, in a randomized clinical trial involving 670 adults 70 years or older with a history of falls or impaired mobility, the therapeutic Tai Ji Quan intervention effectively reduced falls by 58 percent compared with the stretching exercise and by 31 percent compared with a multimodal exercise intervention.
Falls in older adults have long been a significant healthcare problem associated with loss of independence, premature morbidity and mortality. However, establishing what types of exercise are suitable to the task has been problematic, according to Li Fuzhong, a researcher at Oregon Research Institute and now a visiting researcher at Shanghai University of Sports.
This study was designed both to test the efficacy of Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance, a unique fall prevention program researched over the past 20 years, in a more at-risk group than previously studied, and directly compare its impact on the risk of falling with an established multimodal exercise program, consisting of strength, balance and flexibility activities.
While being physically active is likely to reduce the risk of falling compared to not being physically active, not all exercise programs are equally efficacious, said Li.
Li said that the program required no equipment and little space, thus was low cost and shown to be very safe means so that practitioners had a considerable amount of autonomy in incorporating it into their lives.