Tai Chi To Prevent Falls in Seniors

A few years ago I went running in my neighborhood on Mother’s Day. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and flowers were blooming. I wound up limping home with blood dripping off my hands because I caught my foot on some uneven pavement and went sprawling.

The worst thing that happened to me with that fall was skin off my hands and my left forearm and difficulty typing at work for a few days. (Yay for jiu jitsu training and knowing how to fall properly!) For older patients, though, a fall can result in a much worse outcome. Hip fractures from falls result in surgery and extended time in rehab. About 25% of elderly patients who suffer a hip fracture never are able to leave the nursing home and live independently afterwards. Fall-related complications are the fifth leading cause of death in people over age 65.

There is a gentle form of exercise that promotes strength, balance and relaxation. It also happens to be a formidable martial art for those who want to study that side of the practice. It is ideal for seniors because it is simple to learn a set of moves, can be done anywhere, and generally is taught in a group setting (thereby promoting social interaction). At the beginning it is not physically demanding although as one progresses in practice moves can be modified to provide more physical benefits.

This exercise has been practiced for thousands of years. It is Tai Chi.

tai chi
Multi-ethnic group of adults practicing tai chi in park. Main focus on senior man (60s) in blue shirt.

I’ve studied Tai Chi since I was a teenager and have found it very relaxing and helpful with stress management and with my health. On days when I’m tired or have an injury and can’t do a full gym workout (or full martial art workout for that matter) I can always do Tai Chi.

Researchers have found that seniors who practice Tai Chi are much less likely to fall than those who don’t. They reviewed 18 research studies looking at almost 4000 participants. The researchers found that those who practiced Tai Chi were much less likely to fall than those that didn’t practice. In fact the effect was so strong that one fall would be prevented for every 10 seniors who practiced Tai Chi. That’s better than statins for preventing heart attacks!

If you or someone you love is getting older, worried about falling, limiting themselves due to fear of falling, or otherwise in need of exercise and social interaction, please check out a Tai Chi class. There are introductory classes available just about everywhere through adult community education or you can look up private studios near you. Tai Chi players

If you are located in northern Ohio I would encourage you to check out the non-profit studio where my family and I study Tai Chi and other martial arts: The Silent Mind in Twinsburg. We have free introductory classes, membership assistance for those struggling financially, and a wide variety of programs for everyone. Kids, teens and adults, beginners and experts, anyone will find something of interest here. Come play with us!

QUESTION: Have you studied (or do you currently study) Tai Chi or another martial art? What has been your experience?

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