OBJECTIVE: Tai Chi (TC) is an exercise training that is becoming increasingly popular as an intervention for single fall prevention. This meta-analysis was performed to evaluate the efficacy of TC on fall rate, fear of falling and balance in older people.
METHODS: Randomized controlled trials published between 1988 and January 2009 were included. In the Netherlands (2009) we used random effects models for the analyses, with data reported as incidence rate ratios (IRR) for falls and standardized mean differences (SMD) for fear of falling and balance.
RESULTS: Nine trials (representing 2203 participants) were included in the analyses. Compared with exercise controls, TC participants showed significant improvements in fall rates (2 trials included, IRR: 0.51, 95% CI 0.38-0.68) and static balance (2 trials included, SMD: 0.47, 95% CI 0.23-0.72). Compared with non-exercise controls, no improvement was found for TC participants in fall rates (5 trials, IRR: 0.79, 95% CI 0.60-1.03) or static balance (2 trials, SMD: 0.30, 95% CI -0.50-1.10), but a significant improvement was found for fear of falling (SMD: 0.37, 95% CI=0.03-0.70).
CONCLUSIONS: Currently there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether TC is effective in fall prevention, decreasing fear of falling and improving balance in people over age 50 years.
This is a great area in need of further study. Unfortunately, given the findings there is little guidance and thus little impact on current clinical practice.