May 3, 1995 in Nation/World

Exercise Helps The Elderly Cut Risk Of Falling, Study Says Researchers Find Tai Chi Training The Most Beneficial In Reducing Injuries

Associated Press

Exercises based on tai chi, a Chinese martial art described as slowmotion kung fu, can help the elderly reduce the risk of falling, a multibillion-dollar cause of injuries.

A study of 2,328 elderly people in a program of general exercise showed that falls can be reduced by about 13 percent and that tai chi training was the most beneficial, reducing injuries by 25 percent.

Study results are to be published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Michael A. Province of Washington University in St. Louis, the lead author of the study, said falling is a significant risk for people over the age of 60. About 30 percent of people over 65 fall at least once a year, and 10 percent to 15 percent of these falls result in injuries, such as fractures of the hip. Such injuries among the elderly, said Province, can lead to a decline in health and hasten death.

In the JAMA study, eight treatment centers developed programs of exercise for older people and then compared the participants’ history of falling with comparable groups of the elderly who did no exercise.

The exercises varied from center to center and included weight training, stretching, endurance training and balance training. The programs lasted from 10 weeks to nine months, and the participants were followed up to four years.

Province said that tai chi, which involves slow, controlled movements that emphasize maintaining good balance, was the most beneficial of the exercises tried.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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