Fall Prevention – Can Tai Chi Help Prevent Falls?

Chances are, you probably know someone or of someone over the age of 65 who has suffered a fall. Or maybe you have had the unfortunate experience of falling. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “each year one in every three adults ages 65 or older falls.” Of that number, 2 million suffer fall-related injuries that lead to a trip to the emergency room.

These falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries in that age group. Injuries from such falls may reduce your mobility or lead to a traumatic brain injury that would ultimately lead to a loss of your independence and reduce the quality of your life.

Weak leg muscles increase the chance of falling. Therefore, exercises that focus on improving leg strength and balance are important to prevent falls. Researchers have discovered that not only do these exercises prevent falls, but they also lower the rates of injuries from these falls and reduce the rate of falls leading to injuries that require medical care.

Tai Chi is recommended to improve strength and balance and consequently to prevent falls. Studies have shown that Tai Chi reduces falls in seniors by up to 45%. It improves your balance by “targeting all the physical components needed to stay upright – leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes – all of which tend to decline with age.”

Apart from the physical weakness leading to falls, emotion also plays a role. The fear of falling is actually an indicator of the risk of falling. The fear of falling often leads people to limit physical activity which in turn reduces fitness, strength and balance and consequently increases the actual risk of falling.

One approach to address this fear is the use of wellness education programs. However, studies have shown that Tai Chi reduces the fear of falling better than a wellness education program in older adults who have fallen in the past.

Tai Chi helps alleviate this fear because strength and balance increases your confidence. Tai Chi teaches relaxation and emphasizes the coordination of the mind and body.  A person who feels firm on his or her feet and is aware of his or her body and the external world is less likely to fear falling.

Tai Chi can help improve strength and balance and reduce falls.  A reduction in falls leads to a reduction in injuries. In turn, older adults who prevent falls can live a healthier and more independent lifestyle. Therefore, consider incorporating Tai Chi into your life to prevent falls.

To learn more, click one of the titles below:

1. The CDC overview on falls.

2. A study on the effect of fall prevention exercise programs on fall-induced injuries.

3. Harvard on Tai Chi to improve balance and prevent falls.

4. A study in the reduction on fear of falling through intense Tai Chi.

 

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