If you are unfamiliar with Tai Chi, you may think it’s just like Yoga. While the two do have some similarities they involve distinct movements and principles. Tai Chi and Yoga are both low-impact, relieve stress, foster relaxation and may even lower blood pressure. However, when it comes to improving balance to prevent falls, Tai Chi is the clear winner.
In April of 2008, researchers from the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine discussed a study which theorized that Iyengar yoga could prevent falls in older adults. However, at the time no studies on actual fall prevention due to Yoga had been performed.
According to Debra Rose, co-director of the Fall Prevention Center of Excellence at University of Southern California and a professor at California University Fullerton, “While yoga emphasizes static poses, which can be helpful for balance when standing still, Tai Chi…[is]… more effective at improving motor control and coordination for walking—when most falls occur.” Rose also stated: “For high-risk individuals like the elderly, yoga is simply not a sufficiently intense activity to lower the risk of falls.”
This is because Tai Chi focuses on constant movement and the transfer of weight between movements. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released some guidance for Tai Chi instructors on how to use the principles of Tai Chi to prevent falls. The guidance focused on the transfer of weight, muscle strength, addressing instability (gait and posture) as well as coordination and mobility. According to the CDC, when Tai Chi focuses on relaxation, and the participant actually relaxes his or her muscles, which leads to a lowered center of gravity in his or her body. In turn, a lowered center of gravity increases the load on the lower limbs which over time increases awareness of lower limb movement. A person who is more aware of his or her lower limb movement is less likely to fall.
If you would like to read more about what the CDC has to say, you may download the guide here.