Accidental falls in older adults cause serious health problems, therefore, Tai Chi exercise (TC) is important to help older adults regain body balance and prevent falls.
This study aimed to assess: 1) the effect of a 12-week TC intervention on lower extremity strength and body balance in older adults, 2) recent falls within 12 weeks, and 3) participants’ satisfaction toward TC exercise.
A quasi-experimental study was conducted, and the participants were older adults, aged 60 and above. One hundred participants were selected by a purposive sampling technique and were divided into 2 groups: the experimental group (n=50) performing the TC exercise, and the control group (n=50) not performing TC. The lower-extremity strength was measured by using a dynamometer, and the body balance was measured by using a timed single leg stance procedure.
The findings revealed that lower-extremity strength was not significantly different in three time periods: pre-TC, after 6 weeks, and after 12 weeks within the experimental group and also after 12 weeks between the experimental group and control group. The body balance within the experimental group in the three time periods was significantly different (p<.001). Multiple pair comparisons by using the Bonferroni test indicated that phase 3 (a 12-week) was significantly higher than phase 1, and phase 2 (p<.05).
However, the effect of a 12-week TC intervention on the body balance of the experimental group was significantly higher than that of the control group (p<.001). The number of recent falls and near falls within 12 weeks in the control group was 14%, with 10% falls occurring outdoors and 4% occurring indoors, whereas the experimental group did not report any falls and showed satisfaction towards the TC exercise.
The findings of the study confirm that TC exercise improves body balance and helps reduce the risk of falls in older adults, while the group of older adults who did not undergo TC exercise suffered an increased risk of falls. These results should be applied and implemented among older adults and other groups of populations in different geographic locations and other clinical settings who are at the risk of falls. Also, the study on TC exercise should be extended to 6-12 months so that concrete results from improving lower-limb strength and body balance can be observed.
Keywords: Improving balance, Lower extremity strength, Older adults, Tai Chi exercise, Accidental falls, Lower-limb strength.
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