Tai chi is a Chinese martial art form or style of exercise that is said to benefit the mind, body and spirit. Though it is considered a difficult form to master, once mastered, it can start providing its benefits instantaneously. So, how can tai chi help seniors improve their balance and prevent falls?
Basic Principles of Tai Chi
Masters of tai chi will tell you that the basic principle behind this form of martial arts is to “… cultivate the qi or life energy within us to flow smoothly and powerfully throughout the body.” The practice focuses on building inner strength, which can help empower the body from within. The achievement of this capability is said to provide a harmony between mind and body.
Experts who have studied and practice tai chi say that regular practice can help strengthen the muscles, improve overall fitness levels, heart health, immunity and flexibility. These benefits of tai chi may be the ones that could help seniors maintain mobility, balance and independence for as long as possible.
Balance issues in seniors
According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 3 million seniors over the age of 65 visit the emergency room in a given year and more than 800,000 get hospitalized with injuries related to falls.
As old age sets in, most individuals experience poor vision, lower flexibility, joint pain, stiffness and slower reflexes on top of medications that could impact their ability to walk without support.
Data shows that falls are very common among seniors and sometimes one fall is all it takes to force a senior adult to stay confined to their home, to avoid future falls. But, if a practice like tai chi could help senior adults improve or maintain their balance and mobility, maybe it could help many live without the fear of falling.
Tai chi and seniors
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), there are 14 programs that could successfully reduce the number of falls experienced by seniors and among this list is tai chi.
This could be because the practice may help reactivate the body’s neuromuscular paths and make it more aware of its own inhibitions and the surroundings.
With its “… slow, focused, fluid movement along with deep breathing,” tai chi may help even those who are over the age of 70.
This conclusion was reached after a research group observed a group of 670 seniors aged 70 and older, who had already experienced at least one fall in the past year. It was found that the seniors who followed a tai chi routine specially designed for preventing falls got the maximum benefits when compared to other routines.
The study also found that people who practiced just two hours of tai chi a week for six months reduced their risk of falling by 31 percent when compared to seniors who only did other exercises and 58 percent than those who only stretched.
If tai chi can benefit people in their 70s, don’t you think it would be beneficial to start at a younger age? Building the practice of tai chi by the time you reach your senior years will help you to enjoy better mobility and prevent falls.
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What is Tai Chi? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://taichiforhealthinstitute.org/what-is-tai-chi/
Collins, S. (2018, October 02). Adding Tai Chi Helps Seniors Avoid Dangerous Falls. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/news/20181002/adding-tai-chi-helps-seniors-avoid-dangerous-falls