Tai Chi: Improving Functional Balance and Predicting Subsequent Falls in Older Persons

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To determine whether improved functional balance through a Tai Chi intervention is related to subsequent reductions in falls among elderly persons.


Two hundred fifty-six healthy, physically inactive older adults aged 70–92 (mean age ± SD = 77.48 ± 4.95), recruited from a local health system in Portland, OR, participated in a 6-month randomized controlled trial, with allocation to Tai Chi or exercise stretching control, followed by a 6-month postintervention follow-up. Functional balance measures included Berg balance scale, dynamic gait index, and functional reach, assessed during the 6-month intervention period (baseline, 3-month, and 6-month intervention endpoint) and again at the 6-month postintervention follow-up. Fall counts were recorded during the 6-month postintervention follow-up period. Data were analyzed through intention-to-treat analysis of variance and logistic regression procedures.


Tai Chi participants who showed improvements in measures of functional balance at the intervention endpoint significantly reduced their risk of falls during the 6-month postintervention period, compared with those in the control condition (odds ratio (OR), 0.27, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.07–0.96 for Berg balance scale; OR, 0.27, 95% CI, 0.09–0.87 for dynamic gait index; OR, 0.20, 95% CI, 0.05–0.82 for functional reach).


Improved functional balance through Tai Chi training is associated with subsequent reductions in fall frequency in older persons.

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