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Icon: Exercise-based interventionsExercise-based Interventions: Central Sydney Tai Chi Trial

Voukelatos, et al.

This study evaluated the effectiveness of a community-based Tai Chi program to reduce falls among people aged 60 or older. One-hour classes were offered once a week for 16 weeks in community settings by experienced instructors who taught their regular programs using several styles of Tai Chi.

After the 24-weekfollow-up period, the fall rate among Tai Chi participants was one-third lower and the rate of multiple falls was 46 percent lower than the rates for participants who did not take Tai Chi.

Population

Participants were healthy people aged 60 or older who lived in the community. About 84 percent were female.

Geographic Locale

Sydney, Australia

Focus

Improve balance and reduce falls.

Program Setting

Tai Chi classes were conducted at community locations such as town halls and senior centers. Locations were chosen based on accessibility (e.g., accessible by public transportation, room accessible without climbing stairs), geographic diversity, and options for no- or low-cost sustainability after the study was completed.

Content

The majority of classes used modified Sun-style Tai Chi although a small proportion used Yang-style Tai Chi or a mixture of several styles. Detailed information about Tai Chi styles was not collected.

Instructors followed a set of guidelines that focused on teaching physical activity to older people and contained suggestions about how to incorporate key elements, such as relaxation, into the Tai Chi program. Some classes had the option to buy a video and/or booklet about the type of Tai Chi they were learning.

Duration

One-hour per week for 16 weeks.

Delivered by

Experienced Tai Chi instructors or instructors experienced in teaching physical activity to older people.

Minimum Level of Training Needed

Instructors must have at least 5 years experience as a Tai Chi instructor or have experience teaching physical activity to older people and attend an intensive weekend workshop about the basic principles of Tai Chi.

Key Elements

  • Limit class size to 12 people to maximize the attention each participant can get from the instructor.
  • Incorporate relaxation and lowered center of gravity exercises into each class.
  • It is important that participants maintain an upright (straight) posture at all times to reduce the risk of falling. Forms of Tai Chi that require participants to squat while moving or to get into positions that are not totally upright should be modified appropriately.
  • Instructors need to be aware of participants’ comfort levels as well as any medical or physical conditions that may limit their ability to perform certain Tai Chi movements.
  • Tai Chi movements should be introduced gradually so that participants are not exposed to too many new movements at once.

Available Materials

  • Tai Chi Principles for Falls Prevention in Older People*
  • Guidelines for Instructors Working with Older People*

*See Appendix D-3.

Study Citation

Voukelatos A, Cumming RG, Lord SR, Rissel C. A randomized, controlled trial of Tai Chi for the prevention of falls: The Central Sydney Tai Chi trial. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2007 Aug;55(8):1185-91.

Supplemental article

Voukelatos A. The Central Sydney Tai Chi trial: A randomized controlled trial investigating the effectiveness of Tai Chi in reducing falls in older people. PhD thesis, University of Sydney, 2010.

Contact

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

Alexander Voukelatos, PhD
Sydney Southwest Area Health Promotion Service
Level 9 (North), KGV building
Missenden Road, Camperdown
New South Wales 2050, Australia
E-mail: avouk@email.cs.nsw.gov.au

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