The efficacy of a 12-week Tai Chi intervention for improving gait velocity and reducing fall risk in community-dwelling older adults: a pilot study

Purpose: Falls are a significant health concern for older adults in the United States due to their prevalence, mortality risk, and cost. Tai Chi has been commonly studied for its effect on improving function and reducing the incidence of falls in older adults. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of a community-based Tai Chi class on fall risk. Methods: Eight participants who were at risk for falls were recruited for this study. Subjects participated in a 50-minute, 1 time per week Tai Chi group exercise class for a duration of 12-weeks. The class was taught by a certified Tai Chi instructor and incorporated various movements to improve strength and balance. Objective measures included preferred and maximum gait velocity. Results: Five participants completed the study and were available for follow-up. A one-tailed, paired t-test was used for within group repeated measures and revealed a significant improvement in maximum (p=0.008) but not preferred (p=0.057) gait velocity. Conclusions: The overall effect of our study cannot be expanded to the general population due to the small sample size. Older adults who participated in the study were able to demonstrate a significant improvement in maximum gait velocity. Further research is needed to determine the true effect of Tai Chi on fall risk in community-dwelling older adults.