Tai Chi for Life - Research
Tai Chi prevents falls: The Evidence
For around two decades medical studies have shown that Tai chi is an effective measure to prevent falls.
The 2009 Cochrane Review http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007146.pub3/pdf/ concluded that only tai chi and individually prescribed exercises were effective for improving balance, strength and flexibility. Tai chi was found to be more effective for falls prevention for older people living in the community than other forms of exercise such as swimming and walking.
This was followed in 2011 by the American and British Geriatrics Societies’ guidelines http://www.medcats.com/FALLS/frameset.htm including tai chi as part of multifactorial intervention strategies. In early 2013, the American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) specifically recommends Dr Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Arthritis/Falls prevention (TCA) programme.
Tai Chi – a different kind of exercise
The incorporation of centuries-old tai chi principles offer far more than just improved physical fitness, balance and flexibility. Performing movements in a slow, relaxed and mindful way, creates awareness, builds confidence and overall mental and physical wellness, improving quality of everyday life for participants.
Tai Chi for Arthritis for Fall Prevention programme (TCAFP or TCF)
TCA, as a health programme devised over 15 years ago by medical, educational and tai chi experts, is not only effective, but safe and accessible as well – attributes which may not be guaranteed or included in the many and varied alternative approaches to teaching tai chi. The CDC recommendations were based on evidence, including the largest ever study of falls prevention undertaken in 2007, in Sydney. http://www.academia.edu/6548235/A_Randomized_Controlled_Trial_of_tai_chi_for_the_Prevention_of_Falls_The_Central_Sydney_tai_chi_Trial
Over 83% of participants followed the TCA programme, attending one session a week for 16 weeks. The number and recurrence of falls was reduced by 67%, with 70% reporting a reduction in fear of falling.
US CDC supports TCA
The CDC also supported the TCA programme because of the consistency of the instructor training, and the quality of the related educational materials. Safety is the most important factor in the programme, including a modernised approach for teaching tai chi, using specially selected low risk movements. Some styles of tai chi and movements can potentially pose a risk to participants, particularly those with mobility challenges.
Instructors are trained in Dr Lam’s Stepwise Progressive Teaching Method, which “simplifies and enhances the students' ability to learn”, creating an accessible and enjoyable programme, with good adherence. Together with excellent instructional DVDs, a seated version, Dr Lam’s book Teaching Tai Chi Effectively and other support materials, a standard has been set worldwide for TCAFP instructors. There are nearly 15,000 Tai Chi for Health instructors worldwide and, in New Zealand – where the government offered free tai chi training for the over 60s – over the years, more than 35,000 participants have learnt TCA to help prevent falls.
Master Trainers in the UK run workshops in Tai Chi for Arthritis/Falls Prevention, Seated Tai Chi for Arthritis and many other Tai Chi for Health Programmes.