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What Most Tai Chi Studies Improving Balance Didn't tell you

October 24, 2016 - The Journal of American Geriatrics Society reported an evaluation instrument developed by University of Connecticut to determine to what extent Tai Chi interventions aimed at improving the balance of older adults disclosed their exercise prescription (Ex Rx) and instructional methods and met best-practice exercise recommendations for balance improvement.

Three electronic databases were searched to identify randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of Tai Chi interventions aimed at improving balance in older adults without severe debilitating diseases. Three Ex Rx (frequency, time, intervention length) and 10 instructional (e.g., style, number of forms) methods of the included RCTs were evaluated.

Twenty-seven interventions were identified from 26 RCTs. On average, Tai Chi was performed for a range of 42 to 71 minutes per session for 1.5 to 4 sessions per week for 7 to 32 weeks. Most interventions reported all three Ex Rx method items. For the 10 instructional methods items, the mean reporting rate was 41.1%, significantly lower than for the Ex Rx method items. Fewer than half of the interventions reported unsupervised practice (15%), progression (22%), or the use of breathing (30%) and relaxation (15%) techniques. The instructional methods items most important for targeting Tai Chi practice to improve balance were not routinely disclosed, with only 15% reporting names of forms and 52% reporting movement principles.

Most Tai Chi interventions disclosed their Ex Rx methods yet routinely failed to report instructional methods. To increase the effectiveness of Tai Chi to improve balance in older adults, future RCTs should disclose their Ex Rx and instructional methods, especially methods that target balance.

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