Saturday, February 13, 2016

Study fails to show 26 hours per year of tai chi enough to reduce risk of falls among seniors.

August 28, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

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.

Tai Chi - Risk of Falls Reduction vs. Avg Hours per Week.

1 – Abstract
2 – Abstract
3 – Abstract
4 – Abstract
5 – Abstract

1: Inge H. J. Logghe, MSc, et. Al. ; Lack of Effect of Tai Chi Chuan in Preventing Falls in Elderly People Living at Home: A Randomized Clinical Trial; J Am Geriatr Soc. 2009 Jan (p 70-75)
2: Wolf SL, Barnhart HX, Kutner NG, McNeely E, Coogler C, Xu T; Reducing frailty and falls in older persons: an investigation of Tai Chi and computerized balance training. Atlanta FICSIT Group. Frailty and Injuries: Cooperative sudies of Intervention Techniques.; J Am Geriatr Soc. 1996 May;44(5):489-97
3: Wolf SL, Sattin RW, Kutner M, O’Grady M, Greenspan AI, Gregor RJ.; Intense tai chi exercise training and fall occurrences in older, transitionally frail adults: a randomized, controlled trial.; J Am Geriatr Soc 2003-12-23 51(12) 1693-
4: Li F, Harmer P, Fisher KJ, McAuley E, Chaumeton N, Eckstrom E, Wilson NL.; Tai Chi and fall reductions in older adults: a randomized controlled trial.; 1: J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2005 Feb;60(2):187-94.
5: Voukelatos A, Cumming RG, Lord SR, Rissel C.; A randomized, controlled trial of tai chi for the prevention of falls: the Central Sydney tai chi trial.; 1: J Am Geriatr Soc. 2007 Aug;55(8):1185-91.


One Response to “Study fails to show 26 hours per year of tai chi enough to reduce risk of falls among seniors.”
  1. Great article! I believe that fall prevention ability is certainly related to how much practice is done. But let me offer another idea here. Learning the Tai Chi form itself is great exercise and very beneficial but in and of itself is not Tai Chi. Students need to learn to feel their balance and where it is at any given moment. Most beginning students are concerned with learning the form, hand movements, placement of the feet, etc. It is the teachers responsibility to get them to pay attention to where their balance is and how to shift it from one leg to another. Exercises like one leg standing and some Qigong can help here. Time devoted to perceiving balance and synchronizing it to the movements should at least equal the time spent learning the movements themselves. Understanding balance and learning to control and cultivate it is what will prevent falls in seniors in the long run. I run 1 hour a week for 12 weeks classes at the Senior Services Center in Joliet, IL. and we spend quite a bit of time on balance, what it is, and how to use it.
    Thanks for your time,


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