Intense tai chi exercise training and fall occurrences in older, transitionally frail adults: a randomized, controlled trial

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003 Dec;51(12):1693-701. doi: 10.1046/j.1532-5415.2003.51552.x.


Objectives: To determine whether an intense tai chi (TC) exercise program could reduce the risk of falls more than a wellness education (WE) program in older adults meeting criteria for transitioning to frailty.

Design: Randomized, controlled trial of 48 weeks duration.

Setting: Twenty congregate living facilities in the greater Atlanta area.

Participants: Sample of 291 women and 20 men aged 70 to 97.

Measurements: Demographics, time to first fall and all subsequent falls, functional measures, Sickness Impact Profile, Centers for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Scale, Activities-specific Balance Confidence Scale, Falls Efficacy Scales, and adherence to interventions.

Results: The risk ratio (RR) of falling was not statistically different in the TC group and the WE group (RR=0.75, 95% confidence interval (CI)=0.52-1.08), P=.13). Over the 48 weeks of intervention, 46% (n=132) of the participants did not fall; the percentage of participants that fell at least once was 47.6% for the TC group and 60.3% for the WE group.

Conclusion: TC did not reduce the RR of falling in transitionally frail, older adults, but the direction of effect observed in this study, together with positive findings seen previously in more-robust older adults, suggests that TC may be clinically important and should be evaluated further in this high-risk population.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Georgia
  • Health Promotion*
  • Housing for the Elderly*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Tai Ji*