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Should elderly people take up Tai Chi?

(Mail Online)    15:59, July 27, 2017

Taking up Tai Chi can prevent falls that lead to fractures and broken bones in the elderly, new research suggests.

The ancient Chinese practice slashes the risk of pensioners having a tumble by 43 per cent, compared to other interventions

Used for more than 1,000 years, it combines deep breathing and slow and gentle movements to boost muscle health.

In recent years it has been touted as an effective exercise to improve balance and flexibility in the elderly, to stop their deadly falls.

Now Spanish researchers have found the practice could offer a simple and holistic way to prevent injuries in those at risk of losing their balance.

The ancient Chinese practice slashes the risk of pensioners having a tumble by 43 per cent, compared to other interventions

The primary cause of traumatic death

Study author Professor Rafael Lomas-Vega, of the University of Jaén, said: 'Falls are the primary cause of traumatic death in older adults.

'They generate a great burden in the public health system due to the associated comorbidities in falling subjects.

'It is well-established that exercise and multi-factorial intervention programmes reduce falls in community-dwelling older adults.

'Particularly, home based exercise programmes have been reported to reduce the rate and risk of falls.'

'Tai Chi may be recommended'

He added: 'Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice focused on flexibility and whole body coordination.

'It has been reported that Tai Chi is an effective exercise to improve balance-control and flexibility in older adults, suggesting a protective role against falls.'

'Tai Chi practice may be recommended to prevent falls in at-risk adults and older adults, especially over the short term.'

How was the study carried out?

For the study, researchers looked at 10 randomised controlled trials of nearly 3,000 people in Tai Chi. 

They were between the ages of 56 and 98, and took part in either one hourly session each week or three.

There was some evidence Tai Chi reduced risk of a fall by 50 per cent over the short term and by 28 per cent over the long term.

But it did not seem to influence when an older or at-risk adult was likely to have their first fall, the study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society showed.

Researchers warned that further research is needed to investigate the effect of Tai Chi in slashing the risk of falls.

Deadly falls

Figures estimate that one in three over 65s living at home will have at least one fall a year, and half of these will suffer more frequently.

They are more likely to have a fall if they have balance issues and muscle weakness, poor vision and a chronic health condition.

Falls among elderly people have become the most common cause of major trauma seen in NHS hospitals, a national audit showed.

Hip fractures

The real danger from a fall is a hip fracture — around 700,000 people mainly women are admitted to hospital each year for surgery to mend a broken hip bone.

One in ten dies within four weeks of their hip fracture, with many more dying within a year.

Many of those who do survive never regain their independence, or struggle to return to the same activities or hobbies. 

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Du Xiaofei, Bianji)

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