In 2010 alone, medical costs associated with falls in older adults accounted for about 30 billion in spending. A large proportion of these falls led to hip fractures. In fact, 95% of hip fractures are caused by falls. Additionally, falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury. Even worse still 27,100 people died in 2010 from falls. If you are an older adult, fall prevention is even more important for you because 1 out of 3 of you fall every year. We often focus on how Tai Chi improves leg strength, balance and flexibility but there a few other ways doing Tai Chi prevents falls.
Tai Chi Stabilizes your Core Muscles
Whenever people talk about a firm core most of us cannot help but focus on the aesthetic aspect. We may think that a lean and strong core is all about six-pack abs or a washboard tummy but it is much more important than that. Your core muscles are responsible for keeping you upright, whether you are walking or running. These muscles also help your body remain balanced as your body weight shifts while you move. If you have a weak core, you are more likely to have unbalanced movements and therefore more likely to fall.
Tai Chi Corrects Your Posture
It is common to see older adults with a hunched over/bent forward posture. This is usually a result of years of poor posture. Who knew your mother was right all those years she was “hassling” you about how you sit? Poor posture stiffens your joints and tightens your muscles. The more bent forward your body becomes, the harder your body has to work to keep you upright and balanced. Also, pushing your head and shoulders forward shifts your center of balance which makes your less steady on your feet. Poor posture even affects your legs, making your hamstrings tight which leads to you shuffling your feet instead of lifting them off of the ground.
Tai Chi focuses on elongating the vertical spine and neck which leads to “fewer unnecessary muscle contractions throughout the musculoskeletal system.” An elongated spine and neck reduces stooping or slouching and other habits that lead to compression and weight on your discs. Tai Chi may help correct imbalances in your feet, including the range of motion in your ankles and how you distribute your body weight as you walk.
Tai Chi Reduces your Fear of Falling
It is a vicious cycle. You fall and become afraid of falling again. This fear of falling then makes you even more likely to fall again. The fear is not without merit. As mentioned above, older adults fall often and when they do, they may be seriously injured and usually face longer and more difficult recoveries than their younger counterparts.
The best thing you can do is face the fear and address it. Tai Chi strengthens your muscles and improves your stamina. It makes you feel firm on your feet. This significantly boosts your self-confidence while diminishing your fear.
Tai Chi Makes you Mindful of Dysfunctional and Dangerous Habits
We spend our whole lives moving without putting any thought into how we move. Unfortunately if we have dysfunctional movements and posture they have become so ingrained in us that correcting them feels awkward. However that feeling will not last forever. Tai Chi helps you train your brain “to activate the right muscles to anticipate and respond to changes in our environment such as stepping up on a curb or into a bath tub.” The slow movements in Tai Chi help you understand how you shift your weight as you transition from one movement to another. This may help you identify dysfunctional habits and how to correct them. It also focuses on teaching you to coordinate your mind and your body as you move.
Take action now to avoid becoming a fall statistic. Tai Chi is convenient to add to your routine and you can do it at home, on your break at work and even for relaxation on weekends.