helps the elderly with falling? Not so fast, says a Reuters report study
that took place in the Netherlands. Going off of past ambivalent reports of how helpful tai chi is with the elderly who are prone to falling, researchers followed 138 elders, who took tai chi for an hour twice a week for 11 weeks. Tai chi is a slow-moving Chinese martial art that is said to improve balance, strength and endurance. For study participants, though, of the 138 elders enrolled in the classes, 115 falls occurred compared to 91 falls for another 131 elders who didn’t take tai chi at all. Beyond balance, researchers say, “The investigators also found no between group differences in balance, fear of falling, physical activity level or functional status.” Consequently, it was concluded that “tai chi chuan is limited in preventing falls among home-living elderly at high risk for falling.” One aspect of this study that I find problematic is the study duration: 11 weeks. I would be interested in knowing how elderly people, who have practiced tai chi as a lifestyle, meaning they have been practicing tai chi as a part of their lives for years, would fare in this study. In some ways, this study seems akin to the weight watcher who begins a new exercise routine, twice a week for an hour, and then quits after about two months (not so far from 11 weeks). How effective would that exercise regimen be? Most healthcare providers advise that exercise, for example, be observed four to five times a week. These days, any individual practicing any type of exercise for just two days a week is unlikely to see much of a difference in any aspect of their lives. I think this study has a limited scope and followed the participants for too short of a time. Finally, unless it is known how people who practice tai chi throughout their lifetimes manage with balance, I think it is improbable to really know what is the true benefit of tai chi.