Falls Prevention and Resilience with Taoist Tai Chi® practice
Falls are a normal part of life yet we all know they can be life-altering events. Falls are especially devastating among older adults as they are a leading cause of hospitalization due to injury and a major reason for admission to a residential care facility. Fear of falling can itself affect our lives as we begin to avoid certain situations.
Research into Tai Chi provides excellent evidence of benefit for preventing falls, improving balance and strength and increasing mobility. With Taoist Tai Chi® practice you can feel more stable on your feet, increase your confidence, strength, resilience, and stamina. It helps improve posture, alignment, and balance and allows you to move more freely. With increased flexibility, even if you fall, there is less chance you will have a serious injury. In addition, many people practicing Taoist Tai Chi® arts have found a sense of lightness and well-being.
How Taoist Tai Chi® practice Helps Prevent Falls and Increases Resilience
This webinar was recorded during a Taoist Tai Chi® arts Program with an emphasis on physiology held at the International Centre, near Orangeville, Ontario, on November 26th, 2017.
Crispin Barker, President of the Taoist Tai Chi Society of Great Britain and a physiotherapist by profession, discusses how the practice of Taoist Tai Chi® arts can help with balance, fall prevention and resilience.
- Systematic reviews on Tai Chi and falls prevention consistently found a decreased risk of falls for Tai Chi practitioners as well as improvements in both static and dynamic balance.
- Studies also suggest that Tai Chi is the most cost-effective intervention to prevent falls.
- There is also good evidence that Tai Chi reduces fear of falling and increases strength in the lower limbs.
Huston, P. and McFarlane, B. (2016). Health benefits of Tai Chi: What is the evidence? Canadian Family Physician, 62, 881-90.
- Along with promoting strength, flexibility, and balance, Tai Chi also reduces fear of falling, which can cause many people to avoid activity, thus weakening their muscles and reducing balance further. Tai Chi is an excellent exercise program for promoting confidence and stability.¹
- Tai Chi is effective for preventing falls in older adults. The preventive effect increases with frequency and duration of practice.²
- “Tai Chi not only improves balance, but also improves confidence.” – Dr. Peter Harmer, professor of exercise and health science at Willamette University.³
¹Government of Canada (2014). Seniors’ falls in Canada; Second report. Public Health Agency of Canada, “Seniors’ Falls in Canada: Second Report”
²Huang, ZG., Feng, YH., Li, YH., and Lu, CS. (2017). Systematic review and meta-analysis: Tai Chi for preventing falls in older adults. BMJ Open, 7(2).
³Thompson, D. (2018). Tai chi: An ancient art may work best to prevent falls in old age. MedicalXpress.
- More than 6000 of 12,000 Taoist Tai Chi®, arts practitioners across Canada responded to a National Health Questionnaire.
- 96% reported improved balance
- 84% reported improved mobility
- 40% reported increased security in walking
- A statistically significant relationship was found between the length of time practicing and the reduction of both fall frequency and severity of impact.
Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi (2016). Promoting vitality and well-being: How Taoist Tai Chi® arts impact health and reduce stress on public health services.
- In a clinical trial involving seniors with a history of falls, those in the Tai Chi group showed a significantly lower incidence of falls compared to both the other treatment groups and the control groups. This effect held at the 6-month follow up testing as well. Interestingly, the Tai Chi group also performed better on tests of cognitive function.¹
- One investigation of various exercise interventions found, not surprisingly, that exercises that require standing up rather than sitting are the most effective. Tai chi was noted to reduce individuals’ rate of falls by 19% as well as reducing the number of people who experience falls by 20%.²
- Another study found high quality evidence that, compared with other interventions, Tai Chi reduced the rate of falls by 43% at short term follow up (less than 1 year) and by 13% at long term follow up (more than 1 year).³
¹Li, FZ., Harmer, P., Fitzgerald, K. et. al. (2018). Effectiveness of a therapeutic Tai Ji Quan intervention vs a multimodal exercise intervention to prevent falls among older adults at high risk of falling. JAMA Internal Medicine, 178(10), p1301–1310.
²Sherrinton, C., Fairhall, N., Wallbank, G. et. al. (2019). Exercise for preventing falls in older people living in the community. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 1.
³Lomas-Vega, R., Obrero-Gaitán, E., Molina-Ortega, FJ., and Del-Pino-Casado, R. (2017). Tai Chi for risk of falls: A meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatric Society, 65(9), p 2037-2043.
- There is good evidence that Tai Chi is the most cost-effective intervention to prevent falls.¹
- A study involving the implementation of a year-long Tai Chi program in 36 senior centers calculated that they saved $917 for every fall that was prevented. The program resulted in a 49% decrease in falls.²
¹Huston, P. and McFarlane, B. (2016). Health benefits of Tai Chi: What is the evidence? Canadian Family Physician, 62, 881-90.
²Li, FZ., Harmer, P., and Fitzgerald, K. (2016). Implementing an evidence-based fall prevention intervention in community senior centers. American Journal of Public Health.
What are practitioners saying about balance and falls prevention through Taoist Tai Chi® practice?
“Balance was a big issue for me. After a car accident in 1974 I was fine until I got older. Then I noticed I had to hold onto a railing, or whatever was handy, to maintain my balance. I can now do kicks and stand on one leg in various Taoist Tai Chi® arts moves without losing my balance. This decreases the falls that could happen outside.”
– Sandra, Peterborough, Canada (and Australia)
“Since doing Taoist Tai Chi® arts I started in a walker, advanced to a cane, now no aids.”
– Joan, Oshawa, Canada
“Without Taoist Tai Chi® practice I would not be walking; I would be in a wheelchair full time. I was born with cerebral palsy affecting walking coordination and my vision. I use two canes and a wheelchair for long distances. Taoist Tai Chi® practice has taught me to really focus, and feel more balanced mentally, physically and spiritually (via meditation).”
– Heather, Ottawa, Canada
“Taoist Tai Chi® arts stopped my falling.”
– Hazel, Chicago, USA
“I was using a walker when I was introduced to Taoist Tai Chi® arts – 3 weeks later I was standing and taking part in all movements.”
– Mary, Meaford, Canada
“I’m not only better coordinated and much better balanced, but in a better mood and less anxious.”
– Rodica, Toronto, Canada
How does Taoist Tai Chi® practice help?
Taoist Tai Chi® arts involve a full range of motion with deep stretching and continuous turning of the spine. They exercise the whole physiology including muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems, as well as tendons, joints, connective tissue and organs. This whole body approach has a profound effect on our health, increasing strength, flexibility and resilience, whatever our condition.
Taoist Tai Chi® arts are also a form of moving meditation that has a deep effect on the brain, calming and clearing the mind.
Be Balanced – Move Confidently – Be Active