We’ve told you time and again that Tai Chi improves balance and prevents falls, especially for older adults. What we have not really talked about is why older adults are more susceptible to falls. When you think about why people fall, you probably consider factors like slippery floors, tripping over things and just not paying attention when you are moving from place to place. However, older adults fall a lot more often than younger adults do, and they usually suffer more serious injuries and endure slower recoveries, if at all. Yes, some of these falls are fatal. Older adults are more likely to fall because of lack of exercise, diseases, medications and vision problems. While the list of problems below may seem daunting, several of these problems may be addressed by Tai Chi.
Lack of Physical Exercise:
Older adults are more likely to be sedentary. They may be sedentary due to musculoskeletal issues or have musculoskeletal issues due to a sedentary lifestyle. The following related issues lead to a greater risk for falls as you get older:
- Weak muscles;
- Reduced flexibility;
- Decreased bone mass;
- Impaired balance and gait problems.
Around 41% of falls are simply a result of “the incorrect transfer or shifting of bodyweight…” This is one of the main problems that a Tai Chi regimen will help you address. Additionally, Tai Chi strengthens your muscles, improves flexibility, reduces the loss of bone mineral density and helps you correct dysfunctional gait and balance.
Vision Problems and Other Sensory Impairments:
- Slower reflexes;
- Age-related vision impairments, including nearsightedness, poor visibility in the dark, glaucoma;
- Dizziness related to drops in blood pressure;
- Numb feet or peripheral neuropathy.
Tai Chi cannot fix poor vision, but it can improve your reflexes so you can respond faster to shifts in your balance that may cause falls and recover faster. Additionally, Tai Chi may help reduce peripheral neuropathy, and help your feet feel firmer on the ground which reduces your chances of falling.
“People who take four or more prescription drugs have a greater risk of falling than do people who take fewer drugs.”
Additionally, some side effects of medication include dizziness, blurred vision and even unsteadiness.
Some older adults take medication to help with stress, depression and sleep deprivation. Several studies have shown that Tai Chi helps with all three. Tai Chi may also lead to the improvement of other health issues and lower your dependence on medication. Therefore, Tai Chi may help you take fewer medications and reduce the side effects that may lead to falling. However, you should always discuss medications and side effects with your doctor and never reduce or stop taking them without consulting him or her first.
In conclusion, Tai Chi may be a valuable choice to help address the physical risk factors that may lead to falling. It may provide you with strength, balance and flexibility. Additionally, it may help reduce the number of medicines you take and the associated side effects. However, apart from participating in Tai Chi, you should try and make your living area a safe space to prevent slip and fall accidents:
- Keep your floors clear of clutter;
- Have carpeting installed instead of using loose rugs;
- Install railings on your staircases;
- Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes;
- Make sure your walkways are well-lit.