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Keywords:

  • exercise;
  • falls;
  • older people;
  • prevention;
  • tai chi

Objectives

To compare the effects of guided home-based tai chi chuan (TCC) and lower extremity training (LET) and of levels of self-practice on falls and functional outcomes in older fallers.

Design

Randomized controlled trial.

Setting

Taipei, Taiwan.

Participants

Individuals aged 60 and older who had fall-related emergency department visits at least 6 months before participating in the study and ambulated independently at baseline (N = 456).

Intervention

Six months of TCC or LET.

Measurements

Four types of fall measures (falls, time to first fall, fallers, recurrent fallers) and six functional measures (handgrip strength, balance, mobility, fear of falling, depression, cognitive function).

Results

The TCC group was significantly less likely than the LET group to experience any falls during the 6-month intervention (incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 0.30, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.15–0.60), and the effects remained significant after 12 months of follow-up (IRR = 0.32, 95% CI = 0.14–0.71). These effects remained significant for injurious falls during the 6-month intervention (IRR = 0.33, 95% CI = 0.16–0.68) and the entire 18-month study (IRR = 0.39, 95% CI = 0.18–0.83). Similar results were obtained when another two fall measures (time to first fall, number of fallers) were used. Moreover, participants who independently practiced TCC or LET seven times per week or more were significantly less likely to experience injurious falls during the 6-month intervention (IRR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.20–0.83) and the 18-month study (IRR = 0.43, 95% CI = 0.21–0.87) than their counterparts, had a significantly longer time to first injurious fall, and were significantly less likely to have an injurious fall during the 6-month intervention. Cognitive function improved to a greater extent in the TCC group than in the LET group over the 18-month study.

Conclusion

Home-based TCC may reduce the incidence of falls and injurious falls more than conventional LET in older fallers, and the effects may last for at least 1 year.