Tai Chi for fall prevention and balance improvement in older adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Author: Weidong Chen1,2, Min Li3, Hai Li2, Yanzhao Lin2, Zhoushan Feng4,5
1 Department of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine Nutrition, The Sixth Affiliated Hospital, School of Medicine, South China University of Technology, Foshan, China.
2 The Second Clinical Medical College of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, Guangzhou, China.
3 College and Hospital of Stomatology, Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, China.
4 Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Major Obstetric Diseases, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Higher Education Joint Laboratory of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Guangdong Provincial Clinical Research Center for Obstetrics and Gynecology, Guangzhou, China.
5 Guangzhou Key Laboratory of Neonatal Intestinal Diseases, Department of Neonatology, The Third Affiliated Hospital of Guangzhou Medical University, Guangzhou, China.
Conference/Journal: Front Public Health
Date published: 2023 Sep 1
Other: Volume ID: 11 , Pages: 1236050 , Special Notes: doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1236050. , Word Count: 317

Background and objective:
As the population ages, the health of older adults is becoming a public health concern. Falls are a significant threat to their health due to weakened balance. This study aims to investigate the beneficial effects of Tai Chi on fall prevention and balance improvement in older adults.

We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials related to Tai Chi, falls, and balance ability, searching PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library databases from their establishment until December 31, 2022. Two independent reviewers performed the search, screening of results, extraction of relevant data, and assessment of study quality. This study followed the PRISMA guidelines for systematic review and meta-analysis.

Totally 24 RCTs were included for meta-analysis, and the results showed that Tai Chi can effectively reduce the risk of falls in older adults (RR: 0.76, 95% CI: 0.71 to 0.82) and decrease the number of falls (MD [95% CI]: -0.26 [-0.39, -0.13]). Tai Chi can also improve the balance ability of older adults, such as the timed up and go test (MD [95% CI]: -0.69 [-1.09, -0.29]) and the functional reach test (MD [95% CI]: 2.69 [1.14, 4.24]), as well as other balance tests such as single-leg balance test, Berg balance scale, and gait speed (p < 0.05). Subgroup analysis showed that Tai Chi is effective for both healthy older adults and those at high risk of falls (p < 0.001), and its effectiveness increases with the duration and frequency of exercise. In addition, the effect of Yang-style Tai Chi is better than that of Sun-style Tai Chi.

Tai Chi is an effective exercise for preventing falls and improving balance ability in older adults, whether they are healthy or at high risk of falling. The effectiveness of Tai Chi increases with exercise time and frequency. Yang-style Tai Chi is more effective than Sun-style Tai Chi.

Systematic review registration:
https://clinicaltrials.gov/, identifier CRD42022354594.

Keywords: Tai Chi; balance; fall; meta-analysis; older adults.

PMID: 37736087 PMCID: PMC10509476 DOI: 10.3389/fpubh.2023.1236050