Study fails to show 26 hours per year of tai chi enough to reduce risk of falls among seniors.
Researchers at Erasmus MS University in the Netherlands randomly assigned 269 older adults to a tai chi or control group. The tai chi group received two hours of tai chi training for 13 weeks. Falls were recorded in both groups during the 12 months following the start of the tai chi classes. There was no statistically significant difference in the rate of falls observed in the two groups.
One possible reason that this study failed to demonstrate a reduction in falls is that participants did not practice tai chi enough for there to be significant benefits. Two hours of tai chi for 13 weeks only works out to an average of 0.5 hours of tai chi per week over the one year course of the study.
I identified four other studies where the rate of falls reduction between the tai chi and control groups was available. All four of the other studies showed a substantial reduction in the rate of falls in the tai chi group, but not all of these were statistically significant. All of these had a substantially greater amount of time assigned to tai chi practice over the course of the study, ranging from 33% more to 5 times as much as this study. Because of this, it is reasonably to conclude that one of the reasons that this study failed to find reductions in fall rates was simply that participants did not practice enough.
A graph of the results (see below) indicates that, as would be expected, the studies where the participants practiced tai chi more tended to have better results. Since, as this study suggests, less than an average of one hour per week of tai chi may not be enough to significantly reduce the risk of falls, at least one hour, and preferably two, a week of ongoing tai chi practice should be recommended for elderly adults wishing to reduce their risk of falls.
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