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Icon: Exercise-based interventionsExercise-based Interventions: Simplified Tai Chi

Wolf, et al.

This study compared a 15-week program of Tai Chi classes that used 10 simplified movements, with a balance training program. After 4 months, the risk of falling more than once among participants in the Tai Chi classes was almost half that of people in the comparison group. Participants reported that after the study they were better able to stop themselves from falling by using their environment and appropriate body maneuvers. After the study ended, almost half the participants chose to continue meeting informally to practice Tai Chi.


All were 70 years or older and lived in the community. Most study participants were female.

Geographic Locale

Atlanta, Georgia, United States


Improve strength, balance, walking speed, and other functional measures among seniors using Tai Chi.

Program Setting

The program used facilities in a residential retirement community.


Participants were taught a simplified version of Tai Chi. The 108 existing Tai Chi forms were synthesized into a series of 10 composite forms (see Appendix D-4) that could be completed during the 15-week period. The composite forms emphasized all elements of movement that generally become limited with age.

Exercises systematically progressed in difficulty. The progression of movements led to gradually reducing the base of standing support until, in the most advanced form, a person was standing on one leg. This progression also included increasing the ability to rotate the body and trunk as well as performing reciprocal arm movements. These exercises were led during the group sessions; however, individuals were encouraged to practice these forms on their own, outside of the group setting.

Example of a simplified Tai Chi form:

Simplified Form 6


The 15-week program included:

  • Twice weekly 25-minute group sessions
  • Weekly 45-minute individual contact time with the instructor
  • Twice daily 15-minute individual practice sessions at home without an instructor

Delivered by

A Tai Chi Quan grand master with 50 years of experience instructed the classes and met individually with participants. A nurse/coordinator maintained contact with participants to ensure their participation.

Minimum Level of Training Needed

Information was not provided by the principal investigator.

Key Elements

This program needs to be led by a very experienced Tai Chi grand master. No elements should be changed in order to replicate these results among seniors who are similar to study participants.

Available Materials

Illustrations of the 10 Tai Chi exercises are found in Appendix D-4.

Study Citation

Wolf SL, Barnhart HX, Kutner NG, McNeely E, Coogler C, Xu T. Reducing frailty and falls in older persons: An investigation of Tai Chi and computerized balance training. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 1996 May;44(5):489-97.

Supplemental article

Wolf SL, Coogler C, Xu T. Exploring the basis for Tai Chi Chuan as a therapeutic exercise approach. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. 1997 Aug;78(8):886-92.


Practitioners interested in using this intervention may contact the principal investigator for more information:

Steven L. Wolf, PhD, PT, FAPTA
Department of Rehabilitation Medicine
Emory University School of Medicine
1441 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30322, United States
Tel: 404-712-4801
Fax: 404-712-5895

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