Objective: It remains unclear whether Tai Chi is effective for preventing falls in older adults. We undertook this systematic review to evaluate the preventive effect of Tai Chi by updating the latest trial evidence.
Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.
Methods: The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE and EMBASE were searched up to February 2016 to identify randomised trials evaluating Tai Chi for preventing falls in older adults. We evaluated the risk of bias of included trials using the Cochrane Collaboration's tool. Results were combined using random effects meta-analysis.
Outcome measures: Number of fallers and rate of falls.
Results: 18 trials with 3824 participants were included. The Tai Chi group was associated with significantly lower chance of falling at least once (risk ratio (RR) 0.80, 95% CI 0.72 to 0.88) and rate of falls (incidence rate ratio (IRR) 0.69, 95% CI 0.60 to 0.80) than the control group. Subgroup analyses suggested that the preventive effect was likely to increase with exercise frequency (number of fallers: p=0.001; rate of falls: p=0.007) and Yang style Tai Chi was likely to be more effective than Sun style Tai Chi (number of fallers: p=0.01; rate of falls: p=0.001). The results might be influenced by publication bias as the funnel plots showed asymmetry. Sensitivity analyses by sample size, risk of bias and comorbidity showed no major influence on the primary results.
Conclusions: Tai Chi is effective for preventing falls in older adults. The preventive effect is likely to increase with exercise frequency and Yang style Tai Chi seems to be more effective than Sun style Tai Chi.
Keywords: Falls; Meta-analysis; Older adults; Systematic review; Tai Chi.
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