Tai Chi could cut risk of falls by a fifth

Tai Chi could cut risk of falls by a fifth

On average, those taking part in all exercise programmes had 23 per cent fewer falls than those who did not, while Tai Chi was found to reduce the rate of falls by 19 per cent.

Experts said it was less clear whether exercises like dancing and walking, which do not focus on balance, could cut the risk of falls.

The Cochrane Review was carried out by Oxford University and Sydney University.

Author, Professor Cathie Sherrington from The University of Sydney, Institute for Musculoskeletal Health said: “This evidence helps build an even stronger picture that exercise can help prevent older people having falls. It also illustrates which types of exercise can be beneficial. It is well known that keeping active promotes good health but this review pinpoints which types of exercise are more likely to be effective for preventing falls.”

A UK trial is currently examining whether Tai Chi can improve balance, quality of life and thinking skills in those with dementia.

Researchers believe that those suffering from dementia may find that the ancient Chinese art is less boring than standard physiotherapy exercises, and easier to remember.

A new long-term plan for the NHS promises a major expansion in social prescribing, with pensioners referred for exercise classes and social activities in order to boost independence.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Falls are a huge threat to older people and can be fatal in the worst cases so anything we can do to prevent them should definitely be done. It’s great news that the right exercise classes really work and it’s over to the NHS now to make sure every older person who could benefit from them gets the chance to do so.”

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