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The Tai Chi Lower Extremity Exercise: A New Practical Way to Help Older Adults in Balance Control

Mar 27, 2024 #Older People

Falls among older adults present a significant health concern, often resulting in injuries, medical costs, and decreased quality of life. With approximately 30% of adults aged 65 and older experiencing falls annually, the need for effective fall prevention strategies is paramount.

Tai Chi, a centuries-old practice, has emerged as a promising intervention for reducing falls among older adults. However, traditional Tai Chi exercises can pose challenges for older individuals, particularly those with cognitive impairments or limited mobility, leading to the development of simplified versions.

In a recent study, researchers from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Oregon Research Institute explored a novel approach to Tai Chi tailored specifically to address these challenges: the Tai Chi Lower Extremity Exercise (TC LEE).

(This is the Table of Content for the tutorial with details about TC LEE with illustrations)

This program is developed based on a previous effort to simplify Tai Chi exercises, the 8-form Tai Chi, which showed promise in reducing falls risk and improving balance. Building upon this work, researchers further simplified Tai Chi into the TC LEE, focusing solely on lower extremity movements. By eliminating upper extremity motions for Tai Chi beginners, TC LEE aimed to make Tai Chi more accessible to older adults while still providing effective balance training.

In an experiment conducted by the researchers in a controlled experiment, 102 older adults from 10 local assisted living facilities were recruited and randomly assigned to the 3 groups (40 in TC LEE group, 31 in the 8-form TC group and 31 in the control group to do stretching exercises).  Each group did their program over 16 weeks. Results indicated significant improvements in balance, functional mobility, and postural control among both TC LEE and 8-form Tai Chi groups compared to the control group.

Importantly, TC LEE showed comparable efficacy to the standard 8-form Tai Chi, suggesting its potential as a standalone intervention for Tai Chi beginners to do for fall prevention, while it can also be combined with the standard programs.

By Tai Chi