One of the biggest fears among seniors is having a nasty fall. With balance weakening a bit as the body ages, inadvertent falls are more likely to happen, leading to broken bones, or worse. But you can fight back using an ancient Chinese martial art that is aimed more at helping the practitioner than harming an opponent.
Tai chi has long been recommended as a way to improve your physical health and spiritual balance. The slow movements call for concentration as well as fluidity, both of which can help keep your mind and body active. A new study by Chinese researchers, reported in JAMA Internal Medicine, has shown tai chi cut the risk of falling among the elderly by 58 percent when compared with stretching alone or a regular exercise routine.
The researchers evaluated nearly 12 hundred adults ages 70 and older in seven cities in Oregon. The participants had two 60-minute classes each week for 24 weeks. Some did tai chi, others stretched only and others did an exercise program that integrated balance, aerobics, strength and flexibility activities.
After six months, the tai chi class reported the lowest number of falls, 85. The exercise group had 112 falls, whereas those who only did stretching reported 127 falls.
Experts say what makes tai chi effective is that people must simultaneously engage their body, mind and senses to perform the activities. Over the 24 weeks of the class, the movements and routines built upon one another, and the participants were able to improve their strength, balance and flexibility.
Even for those adults who may feel their martial arts days are behind them, the study shows it’s never too late to protect yourself, at least from a dangerous fall.