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Balance Training Better Than Tai-Chi for Older Adults

Increased mobility may also cut risk of falls, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to improving older adults' mobility and reducing their risk of falls, balance training works better than tai-chi, a new study finds.

The 10-week study of 162 people, age 65 and older, was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System and the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor HealthCare System. They found that a balance program that focused on step length and speed was more effective at improving mobility and balance than tai-chi, a Chinese martial art form that features slow rotational movement and weight shifting.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

"Our results indicate that in older adults with at least mild balance impairment, Combine Balance and Stepping Training results in modestly greater improvement in balance, stepping and functional mobility compared to tai-chi training," study senior author Dr. Neil B. Alexander, a geriatric specialist in the university's department of internal medicine, said in a prepared statement.

"What this tells us is that if you want to improve your ability to balance and walk, try a program that focuses on improving balance while moving and the ability to step quickly and further," added Alexander, who is also director of the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.

"Data from this study can help determine which balance training program may be most optimal to improve balance and eventually reduce falls. Among older adults, falls are becoming and increasing problems, so it is important that we find ways to help prevent them in the first place," Alexander said.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about older adults and falls.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, December 2006
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