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Icon: Exercise-based interventionsExercise-based Interventions: Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance

Li, et al.

This study compared the effectiveness of a 6-month program of Tai Chi classes with a program of stretching exercises. Participants in the Tai Chi classes had fewer falls and fewer fall injuries, and their risk of falling was decreased 55 percent.

Population

Participants were inactive seniors aged 70 or older. Three quarters were female. All participants lived in the community.

Geographic Locale

Portland, Oregon, United States.

Focus

Improve balance and physical performance with Tai Chi classes designed for older adults.

Program Setting

The Tai Chi programs were conducted in community settings such as local senior centers and adult activity centers.

Content

The program included 24 Tai Chi forms that emphasized weight shifting, postural alignment, and coordinated movements. Synchronized breathing aligned with Tai Chi movements was integrated into the movement routine. Each session included instructions in new movements as well as review of movements from previous sessions. Each practice session incorporated musical accompaniment. Each hour-long session included:

  • A 5- to 10-minute warm-up period
  • Practice of Tai Chi movements
  • A 5- to 10-minute cool-down period

Practicing at home was encouraged and monitored using a home-practice log.

Duration

One-hour classes were held 3 times a week for 26 weeks, followed by a 6-month period in which there were no organized classes.

Delivered by

Experienced Tai Chi instructors who followed the classical Yang style, which emphasizes multidirectional weight shifting, body alignment, and coordinated movement of the arms, legs, and trunk.

Minimum Level of Training Needed

Instructors should be familiar with the fundamental principles of Tai Chi and the major postures and movements, be able to follow the training protocol, and have experience teaching physical activity to older adults.

Key Elements

  • Program settings can include facilities such as senior centers, adult activity centers, and community centers.
  • An average class size of 15 is ideal for effective learning and teaching.
  • For this program to be successful, participants should attend Tai Chi classes at least 2 times a week and participate actively in class.
  • Tai Chi can also be used in rehabilitative settings where the emphasis is on retraining balance in older adults.

Available Materials

The Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance program package, specifically designed for community-dwelling older adults and senior service providers, is available from Dr. Fuzhong Li. The package contains an implementation plan, training manuals, and class materials on videotape and/or DVD.

Study Citation

Li F, Harmer P, Fisher KJ, McAuley E, Chaumeton N, Eckstrom E, Wilson NL. Tai Chi and fall reductions in older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Gerontology. 2005 Feb;60A(2):187-94.

Contact

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

Fuzhong Li, PhD
Oregon Research Institute
1715 Franklin Boulevard
Eugene, OR 97403, United States
Tel: 541-484-2123
E-mail: fuzhongl@ori.org

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