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Tai Chi as a Balance Improvement Exercise for Older Adults: A Systematic Review

Liu, Hao PhD, PT1; Frank, Adam PhD2

Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: July-September 2010 - Volume 33 - Issue 3 - p 103–109
doi: 10.1097/JPT.0b013e3181eda1c4
Systematic Review

Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to identify exercise parameters and the most common outcome measures used in tai chi (TC) research.

Methods: Ovid Medline and PubMed were used to identify longitudinal studies published from January 2000 to July 2007 written in English with the key words tai chi, tai ji, tai chi quan, tai ji quan, balance, falls, and falling. Qualifying studies had subjects aged 60 years or older.

Results: In all 19 qualified prospective studies, older vigorous and likely transitional frail individuals seemed to benefit more from TC than did older frail individuals. The most commonly used TC parameters were Yang's style, with 12 or fewer forms, durations of 12 weeks or longer, frequencies of twice a week or more, and session lengths of at least 45 minutes. The most common outcome measures observed were a combination of 2 to 5 of the following 10 measures (from most to least common): fear of falling, single-leg stance, posturography, rate of falling, flexibility, walking velocity, Berg Balance Scale, Timed up and Go, Functional Reach, and ankle and knee joint strength and range of motion. Improvements were reported in almost all of these measures.

Conclusions: This review indicates that TC may be an economic and effective exercise program for improving balance and balance confidence in older adults

1 Physical Therapy Program, University of North Texas Health Science Center, Fort Worth, Texas.

2 Honor College, University of Central Arkansas, Conway.

Address correspondence to: Hao Liu, PhD, PT, Physical Therapy Program, University of North Texas Health Science Center, 3500 Camp Bowie Blvd., Forth Worth, TX 76107 (

Copyright © 2010 the Section on Geriatrics of the American Physical Therapy Association
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