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Tai Chi may help prevent falls in elderly

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Tai chi is said to help people suffering from joint pains as it allows fluids to flow in the joints and improve flexibility

Tai Chi is an effective way to prevent falls in the elderly, a new meta-analysis reports. Increasing the frequency of the exercise and practicing the Yang style, instead of the Sun style, may result in a more pronounced preventive effect.

Randomized controlled trial studies were retrieved from the Cochrane Library, Embase, WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform, MetaRegister of Controlled Trials and Medline databases. Included were studies that investigated the effect of Tai Chi on a population with an average age of at least 65 years and those with a follow-up time of at least 4 weeks.

The primary outcome was the number of participants who fell at least once, while the secondary outcome was the rate of falls. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane Collaboration’s tool.

Applying the inclusion and exclusion criteria yielded 18 trials, corresponding to a total of 3,824 patients.

The group of patients that engaged in Tai Chi had a significantly lower risk of falling at least once (risk ratio [RR], 0.80; 95 percent CI, 0.72 to 0.88) and rate of falls (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 0.69; 0.60 to 0.80) compared to the control group.

Upon stratification, analysis showed that increasing exercise frequency may also increase the protective effect in both rate of falls (p=0.007) and number of fallers (p=0.001). Additionally, Yang style was found to be more effective than Sun style (rate of falls: p=0.001; number of fallers: p=0.01) Tai Chi.

While comorbidities, risks of bias and sample size showed no significant effect on the observed outcomes, the findings still may be affected by publication bias as shown by asymmetry in the funnel plots.

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