Tai Chi once again comes up on top as a way for elderly people to prevent falling and fracturing a hip or sustaining some other serious injury.
One out of every three Americans over age 65 will suffer a fall with injuries in the next 12 months.
The outcome may be a broken wrist, a fractured skull or a shattered hip bone.
Grandma and Grandpa may be unsteady on their feet, but they can still take Tai Chi classes and regain some stability.
Tai Chi Helps Prevent Falls in Elderly and Others at Risk for Falls
Rafael Lomas-Vega, PhD, University of Jaén in Spain, and colleagues compiled existing studies about exercise and fall prevention.
Compared with other forms of interventions, Tai Chi lowered the rate of falls by 43 percent over a 12 month period, and 13 percent over a period exceeding one year.
Not only that, but if the elderly Tai Chi practitioner DID fall, there was a 50 percent reduction in injury over 12 months and 28 percent over 12+ months.
Interventions went from 12 to 26 weeks, and the one-hour sessions were one to three times a week.
One of the reasons that Tai Chi helps prevent falls is because it trains the body to be more stable from side to side, not just from front to back.
Weak, Porous Bones
“One of the biggest risks to a fall resulting in a broken hip (or other fracture) is osteoporosis,” says D’Wan Carpenter, DO, a board certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician with SIMEDHealth in FLA.
“Studies show that the risk for osteoporosis increases with age affecting Caucasian and Asian women more often.
“This is in part due to the hormonal changes that occur after menopause (specifically decreased estrogen) and the slowing of bone formation associated with aging.
“Prevention can be approached in two ways: 1) prevent falling and 2) prevent osteoporosis.
“Tai Chi is a great exercise, as it provides weight-bearing activity as well as being a gentle exercise that helps increase flexibility, strengthen muscles and provide better endurance in the senior population.
“It is also a great exercise to help improve balance, which thus can decrease fall risk and its sequelae.”
If your grandma, grandpa or elderly parents are resistant to wearing an emergency-alert pendant (which of course, does nothing to prevent a fall), you’ll want to shift your energy towards encouraging them to start taking Tai Chi classes. Mortality from fractured hips in the elderly is relatively high.
Dr. Carpenter is one of the nation’s top board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, a national speaker, medical legal expert and independent medical examiner. She is founder and Chief Medical Officer of DJC Physical Medicine Consultants. Follow Dr. D’Wan on Twitter.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.