Tai Chi for Risk of Falls. A Meta-analysis

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2017 Sep;65(9):2037-2043. doi: 10.1111/jgs.15008. Epub 2017 Jul 24.


Objectives: To analyze the effectiveness of tai chi for falls prevention.

Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

Setting: Pubmed, Scopus, CINHAL, and Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) were searched to May 26, 2016.

Participants: Older adult population and at-risk adults.

Intervention: Randomized controlled trials analyzing the effect of tai chi versus other treatments on risk of falls.

Measurements: The incidence rate ratio (IRR) for falls incidence and hazard ratio (HR) for time to first fall.

Results: The search strategy identified 891 potentially eligible studies, of which 10 met the inclusion criteria. There was high-quality evidence of a medium protective effect for fall incidence over the short term (IRR = 0.57; 95% CI = 0.46, 0.70) and a small protective effect over the long term (IRR = 0.87; 95% CI = 0.77, 0.98). Regarding injurious falls, we found very low-quality evidence of a medium protective effect over the short term (IRR = 0.50; 95% CI = 0.33, 0.74) and a small effect over the long term (IRR = 0.72; 95% CI = 0.54, 0.95). There was no effect on time to first fall, with moderate quality of evidence (HR = 0.98; 95% CI = 0.69, 1.37).

Conclusion: In at-risk adults and older adults, tai chi practice may reduce the rate of falls and injury-related falls over the short term (<12 months) by approximately 43% and 50%, respectively. Tai chi practice may not influence time to first fall in these populations. Due to the low quality of evidence, more studies investigating the effects of tai chi on injurious falls and time to first fall are required.

Keywords: accidental falls; older adults; tai chi.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control*
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Postural Balance / physiology*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Tai Ji / methods*