AGE
, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp 163-170
Date: 05 May 2009

Is Tai Chi Chuan effective in improving lower limb response time to prevent backward falls in the elderly?

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Abstract

To evaluate the training effect of Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) in postural control and backward fall prevention in the elderly, balance assessment and visually guided lower limb response time were analyzed in a case-control study conducted in a community setting. Thirty-one elderly subjects (mean age: 68.2 ± 6.8 years) participated in the TCC group, 30 community-dwelling elderly subjects with matched age and body composition served as the elderly control group, with 13 young adults (mean age: 27.5 ± 3.8 years) serving as young controls. The TCC group had practiced TCC regularly five times per week, for over 30 min per day for at least 4 years. Lower limb response time were measured using a computerized dance machine that we developed, which contains two blocks during testing: single and dual feet. The motor planning of the latter is more complex than the former. Postural control was assessed by computerized posturography (Smart Balance Master). Compared to the elderly controls, the TCC group demonstrated significantly better balance performance in sway-referenced support, which is more challenging. Moreover, the TCC group had better dual feet response than the elderly controls in the forward–backward, forward–right and forward–left directions. Practicing TCC may improve motor responses and postural control in the elderly, particularly in more challenging situations. Subjects showed better postural responses to unexpected perturbation in the forward–backward and forward–sideways direction than sideways or backward–sideways directions, which may have clinical relevance.