Tag Archives: falls

Consider Tai Chi …

I have had great success with yoga over the years, but tai chi comes heavily recommended by people whose opinions I respect. I took some classes in it and enjoyed them, but never felt as totally exercised as I did with yoga. Herewith a breakdown of this gentle martial art.

Tai chi is a non-competitive martial art known for its self-defense techniques and health benefits. As a form of exercise, it combines gentle physical exercise and stretching with mindfulness.

photo a man and woman doing martial arts

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

Research has produced mixed results but appears to show that tai chi can improve balance control, fitness, and flexibility, and might cut the risk of falls in older people.

Tai chi also appears to reduce pain and the symptoms of depression in some cases.

The martial art is an ancient Chinese tradition that has evolved over centuries. To its advocates, it has become a means of alleviating stress and anxiety, a form of “meditation in motion.” Its supporters claim that it promotes serenity and inner peace.

It is safe for people of all ages, as it does not put too much stress on the muscles and joints.

This article explores the documented evidence for the benefits of tai chi.

Benefits

Various research suggests the benefits of tai chi might include improved balance, pain management, and cognitive function in people with and without chronic conditions.

Other possible benefits include improved sleep quality and an enhanced immune system.

Fall reduction

Tai chi can help reduce the likelihood of falls when a person is older. I consider this to be a strong recommendation for all seniors to consider at least trying tai chi.

Tai chi showed some potential benefits for helping prevent trips and falls in older adults across a range of studies.

A 2012 review looked at 159 randomized controlled trials of various types of intervention that were intended to prevent falls in older people.

The studies involved more than 79,193 people, and the authors concluded that tai chi could reduce the risk of falling.

A 2015 systematic review of seven trials involving 544 tai chi chuan practitioners concluded it helped improve balance control and flexibility.

A 2014 Cochrane review found that exercises, including Tai chi, might have reduced the fear of falling among older adults in a retirement community immediately after they did the workout. However, the review did not reach any conclusions about tai chi reducing the frequency of falls.

One 2012 trial of 195 older adults with Parkinson’s disease showed that tai chi helped treat balance issues with more success than resistance training or regular stretching.

Another article notes that Tai Chi is a successful exercise intervention for factors related to falls in older people.

The evidence from these studies seems to suggest that tai chi might help support many aspects of balance and posture.

Chronic pain

Several small studies suggest that tai chi can have a significant impact on the chronic pain experienced with specific conditions, such as osteoarthritis of the knee and fibromyalgia.

A 2013 meta-analysis of seven different trials seemed to demonstrate that a 12-week course of tai chi could improve the stiffness, and pain symptoms of knee osteoarthritis and improve physical function.

The authors of the review recommended further, larger-scale trials to support their conclusions. The studies they examined had flaws and potential biases.

One 2012 trial of 195 older adults with Parkinson’s disease showed that tai chi helped treat balance issues with more success than resistance training or regular stretching.

Another article notes that Tai Chi is a successful exercise intervention for factors related to falls in older people.

The evidence from these studies seems to suggest that tai chi might help support many aspects of balance and posture.

Types

There are five different styles of tai chi, dating from different periods in history. Each has a unique set of methods and principles, lineage, and date of origin.

They are:

Chen-style, which started between 1580 and 1660
Yang-style, which started between 1799 and 1872
Wu- or Wu (Hao)-style, which started between 1812 and 1880
Wu-style, which started between 1870 and 1942
Sun-style, which started between 1861 and 1932

Some of these forms of tai chi lean towards health, while others stress competition or self-defense.

People considering a course in tai chi should speak to the instructor about which style they practice and whether it will offer the expected benefits.
History

The true origins of tai chi remain a mystery, but the concepts are rooted in Chinese history, Taoism, and Confucianism.

The founder of tai chi is believed to be Zhang Sanfeng, a 12th-century Taoist monk. Some stories claim that Zhang Sanfeng left his monastery to become a hermit and that he created a form of fighting based on softness.

Sanfeng reportedly said: “In every movement, every part of the body must be light and agile and strung together. The postures should be without breaks. Motion should be rooted in the feet, released through the legs, directed by the waist and expressed by the fingers. Substantial and insubstantial movements must be clearly differentiated.”

The low-impact nature of tai chi means it is suitable for people of all ages.

2 Comments

Filed under aging, Exercise, exercise benefits, falls, successful aging, tai chi

Falls lead to declines in seniors

Eat less; move more; live longer remains the mantra of this blog. Incredibly, as important as these factors are, as we age, the move more factor takes on added significance. Seniors with mobility problems can be more vulnerable than those without them. Mobility problems can come from a sedentary lifestyle as well as heavy medication.

More than half of elderly patients (age 65 and older) who visited an emergency department because of injuries sustained in a fall suffered adverse events – including additional falls, hospitalization and death – within 6 months. The results of a study examining how risk factors predict recurrent falls and adverse events were published online in Annals of Emergency Medicine (“Revisit, Subsequent Hospitalization, Recurrent Fall and Death within 6 Months after a Fall among Elderly Emergency Department Patients“).

Seniors-lifting-weights.jpg

“Our study shows an even higher rate of adverse events than previous studies have,” said lead study author Jiraporn Sri-on, MD, of Navamindradhiraj University in Bangkok, Thailand. “Patients taking psychiatric and/or sedative medications had even more adverse events. This is concerning because these types of drugs are commonly prescribed for elderly patients in community and residential care settings.” Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, falls, seniors, seniors falling, successful aging

Important Aspects of Aging Well – Harvard

I write a lot about diet, exercise and  weight loss, but it’s no accident that part of the title of this blog is ‘living past 100.’ That’s really the reason for the diet, exercise and weight loss posts – so we can live longer and have full use of our physical as well as mental abilities.

So, I was most pleased to see Harvard HEALTHbeat reporting on the logistical aspects of aging well.

Happy-Old-People-1024x859

“You’re probably already doing a lot to ensure that you stay in good health and are able to enjoy your later years: eating right, exercising, getting checkups and screenings as recommended by your doctor. But it also makes sense to have some contingency plans for the bumps in the road that might occur.”

 

1.    Adapt your home. Stairs, baths, and kitchens can present hazards for older people. Even if you don’t need to make changes now, do an annual safety review so you can make necessary updates if your needs change.
2.    Prevent falls. Falls are a big deal for older people — they often result in fractures that can lead to disability, further health problems, or even death. Safety precautions are important, but so are exercises that can improve balance and strength.
3.    Consider your housing options. You might consider investigating naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs). These neighborhoods and housing complexes aren’t developed specifically to serve seniors — and, in fact, tend to host a mix of ages — but because they have plenty of coordinated care and support available, they are senior-friendly.
4.    Think ahead about how to get the help you may need. Meal preparation, transportation, home repair, housecleaning, and help with financial tasks such as paying bills might be hired out if you can afford it, or shared among friends and family. Elder services offered in your community might be another option.
5.    Plan for emergencies. Who would you call in an emergency? Is there someone who can check in on you regularly? What would you do if you fell and couldn’t reach the phone? Keep emergency numbers near each phone or on speed dial. Carry a cellphone (preferably with large buttons and a bright screen), or consider investing in some type of personal alarm system.
6.    Write advance care directives. Advance care directives, such as a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy, allow you to explain the type of medical care you want if you’re too sick, confused, or injured to voice your wishes. Every adult should have these documents.
To read further on Harvard’s suggestions, check this.

Tony

Leave a comment

Filed under aging, Harvard, harvard health letter