ElderlyElectronic MediaTai Chi

Improving effectiveness of tai chi to prevent falls

Researchers at the University of Vermont, in Burlington, compared 3 different options.

First, the details.

  • 64 older adults with a history of falling in the previous year and/or significant fear of falling were assigned to a 24-form, yang-style tai chi for 15 weeks, 3 hours a week.
  • They were randomly assigned to use a program designed to maintain adherence to tai chi.
    • A live, interactive, telecommunication-based exercise (Tele-ex)
    • A similar program through a community center-based exercise (Comm-ex)
    • A home video-based exercise (Home-ex)
  • The researchers recorded exercise compliance, number of falls, fear of falling (Activities-specific Balance Confidence [ABC] score), self-perceived health (Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Health Survey [SF-36]), Timed Up & Go (TUG), single leg stance (SLS), and body sway during quiet stance.

And, the results.

  • Tele-ex and Comm-ex groups demonstrated significantly higher exercise attendance and in-class practice time vs Home-ex.
  • Tele-ex and Comm-ex groups demonstrated significant reductions in the average number of falls and injurious falls vs Home-ex.
  • After training there were significant improvements in SLS, ABC, ML-COP, and physical health subscore of the SF-36.
  • Both Tele-ex and Comm-ex groups demonstrated larger improvements than Home-ex in TUG, ML-COP, and the social function, mental health, and physical health subscores of the MOS SF-36.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “Compared with the Home-ex, the Tele-ex and Comm-ex groups are better in exercise compliance, fall reduction and balance, and health improvements. Tele-ex is an effective, affordable, and acceptable choice of exercise for elders.”

My take is there are benefits associated with live interaction, which exceed what can be achieved using a mono-directional approach to communication using a video.

10/28/10 21:27 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.