Last week an NPR story included information on tai chi as a fall prevention exercise. I was intrigued because I have recently started teaching Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention developed the Tai Chi for Health Institute.
Here are the relevant parts of the story and a link to the full story.
What are some of the interventions you’ve used that can help seniors?
You can do so many things. First of all, I tell everybody you’ve got to do some balance training. Tai chi is probably the best exercise to prevent falls, but whatever works for you. And, interestingly, just walking does not reduce your risk for falling. So a lot of doctors will say, “Just get out and walk 20 minutes every day, and that’ll keep you safe. That’ll help you stay healthy.” Walking is great for your heart; it’s great for your brain; it’s great for lots of it. But in order to really reduce your risk for falls, you’ve got to do something specific to balance.
What makes tai chi a good exercise to prevent falls? And why isn’t walking a good alternative?
Walking is kind of just keeping you in one plane moving forward, and it’s not doing any kind of postural training. What tai chi does is it gives you an increased area of postural stability, [which is] kind of your being able to remain upright in space. When you do tai chi, you do stepping moves to the front, to the side; you move your arms out, you reach, you bend. And basically that increases the size of your postural stability so that you can catch yourself and not have the fall. You can be a little bit off kilter and right yourself.