Why Tai Chi for Balance in the Elderly
Tai Chi was originally developed in 13th Century China. It is now practiced around the world as a form of exercise. Studies have shown it is particularly beneficial to those aged over 65. The fact it is a low impact exercise means it does not put a lot of pressure on the joints or bones but still gives benefits to posture, balance, mobility and leg strength. These benefits combined will also lower the risk of falls. Some research also shows it is a help to those suffering with Knee joint pain.
A study in 2004 of 49 people aged between 63 and 75 years old showed 4 weeks’ worth of Tai Chi improved balance. A study of people with Knee Osteoarthritis in 2007 showed in a group of people aged between 61 and 79 that 12 weeks of Tai Chi resulted in decreased pain, stiffness and increased ability to do day to day activities.
As mentioned above falls in the elderly are becoming an increasing area of concern in healthcare. At least 1 in 3 adults aged over 65 will have at least 1 fall in a year. Most falls are not serious however there is always the risk that people can injure themselves, break a bone and lose confidence, mobility and independence. To limit the risk of falls the NHS and other Healthcare organisations recommend taking some form of exercise on a regular basis. Tai Chi is ideal for those looking to lower the risk of falls or increase their confidence after having one. A large study in Australia in 2007 showed that in 700 people those that partook in a Tai Chi class once a week had decreased prevalence of falls and improvements in balance in 5 out of the 6 tests they took.
In summary Tai Chi is great for those people over 65 looking to start to exercise or those looking to improve their balance and strength to allow them to continue or improve on the mobility and independence they already have. As it is low impact and consists of slow, gentle, flowing movements it is very unlikely to cause injury or aggravate any existing aches or pains. The government target for activity for the over 65’s is 150 minutes per week which can be broken down to 30 minutes over 5 days. Tai Chi is one form of exercise that can count towards this keeping things strong and helping the whole body stay healthy.