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Slow and Steady: Tai Chi Chuan Offers Improved Stability for Older People
A major concern for elderly people is avoiding falls that could break bones or cause other injuries. About 30% of people over age 65 suffer a fall at some point, and half of those people fall more than once. Good physical conditioning, strong muscles, and flexibility can help people avoid falls. But most exercise programs are too fast and furious for older people.
That's where Tai Chi Chuan comes in. Also called "Chinese shadow boxing," this ancient form of exercises uses slow, steady movements. Tai Chi involves a series of graceful movements linked together. The body constantly but slowly shifts from foot to foot with a low center of gravity. Tai Chi emphasizes deep breathing and concentration.
This study in Taiwan compared the balancing abilities of two groups of people. One group had practiced Tai Chi every day for at least 30 minutes. They had been practicing Tai Chi for two to 35 years. The control group did not do Tai Chi. People in both groups were over age 65 and were active and fit. Researchers measured subjects' ability to balance for 20 seconds under increasingly difficult conditions. Subjects stood on a platform that swayed and were given increasingly confusing visual feedback or had to balance with their eyes closed. (Vision helps us compensate for lack of balance.) Subjects also did tests that involved shifting from foot to foot in specific patterns at different speeds.
Results showed no difference between the two groups in the simpler balanci...