Tai Ji Quan Can Reduce Falls in Elderly

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Peter A. Harmer, PhD., MPH., ATC., FACSM Professor - Department of Exercise & Health Science Willamette University

Dr. Harmer

Peter A. Harmer, PhD., MPH., ATC., FACSM
Professor – Department of Exercise & Health Science
Willamette University

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Falls in older adults have long been a significant healthcare problem associated with loss of independence, premature morbidity and mortality, and considerable financial strain on individuals and healthcare systems. With the demographic impact of the Baby Boom generation aging into retirement, this issue is becoming even more critical. Among potential prevention strategies, exercise has been proposed to be beneficial. However, establishing what types of exercise are suitable to the task has been problematic. More importantly, identifying differences in the effectiveness of various exercise approaches has been lacking.

The lower dantian in Taijiquan: Yin and Yang rotate, while the core reverts to stillness - Wikipedia

The lower dantian in Taijiquan:
Yin and Yang rotate, while
the core reverts to stillness – Wikipedia

This study involving 670 older community-dwelling adults at high risk for falls was designed both to test the efficacy of Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance (TJQMBB), a unique fall prevention program researched over the past 17 years, in a more at-risk group than previously studied, and directly compare its impact on the risk of falling with an established multimodal exercise program, consisting of strength, balance and flexibility activities. A stretching exercise program was used as a control group. The results indicated that while both TJQMBB and multimodal exercise significantly reduced the incidence of falls compared to the stretching group (58% and 40%, respectively), TJQMBB was 31% more efficacious than the multimodal exercise program.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: There are several important lessons here.

  • First, while being physically active is likely to reduce the risk of falling compared to not being physically active, not all exercise programs are equally efficacious. TJQMBB has been developed as a specific fall prevention program and the results of this study indicate that the innovative therapeutic protocols it incorporates work very well.
  • Second, the fact that TJQMBB requires no equipment and little space, is low cost and shown to be very safe means practitioners have a considerable amount of autonomy in incorporating it into their lives – they can choose to participate in classes in the community to facilitate social interaction or they can perform the program individually in their own homes.
  • Finally, the success of TJQMBB in a higher risk population than has been used in previous randomized clinical trials of the program indicate it’s never too late to start. The program has in-built modifications for multiple levels of ability, including seated and chair-assist activities, that are designed to facilitate individual progression.   

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Based on the positive results of this study, and taking into account the successful completion of previous randomized clinical trials of TJQMBB involving community-dwelling older adults and individuals with Parkinson disease, future research will involve examining the frail elderly to establish the benefits of evidence-based programs, such as TJQMBB, for care facility residents, an area in which there is currently a paucity of data. Additionally, we plan to explore the impact of the program beyond fall prevention. We have preliminary data indicating potential benefits on cognitive function that may impact another major health crisis of aging. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: Additional information on TJQMBB, including finding classes and becoming a community-level instructor, can be found at  https://tjqmbb.org/


Li F, Harmer P, Fitzgerald K, et al. Effectiveness of a Therapeutic Tai Ji Quan Intervention vs a Multimodal Exercise Intervention to Prevent Falls Among Older Adults at High Risk of FallingA Randomized Clinical TrialJAMA Intern Med. Published online September 10, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.3915

Sep 10, 2018 @ 6:56 pm 

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