A meta-analysis suggests that elderly people who are into the traditional Chinese martial art Tai Chi may be protecting themselves from deadly falls.

Spanish researchers from the University of Jaen, led by Rafael Lomas-Vega, Ph.D., looked at 10 relevant studies focused on the benefits of Tai Chi compared to other physical activities.

The research team wanted to know if practicing the ancient martial art could help cushion the elderly from falls, especially those at-risk.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted that falls are a leading cause of injury and death. CDC reported that in 2014 alone, some 29 million falls occurred, while the World Health Organization estimated 424,000 individuals died from falls.

Tai Chi, practiced for both defense training and health benefits, is said to improve strength, flexibility, and balance. It is considered safe for everyone regardless of age because of its low-intensity movements.

In reviewing the studies, Dr Lomas-Vega and his colleagues found that practicing Tai Chi could reduce the rate of falls by 43 percent compared with other interventions within a short term of 12 months, and 13 percent for a longer term of more than 12 months.

As for injuries, the group found that when practicing this form of "meditation in motion" could reduce injury risk by 50 percent in the short term and 28 percent in the long term.

The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Geriatrics.

"Tai Chi practice may be recommended to prevent falls in at-risk adults and older adults. The length of the interventions ranged from 12 to 26 weeks. The frequency of the one-hour sessions ranged from one to three per week," said Dr Lomas-Vega.

Other benefits include improving lower body strength and upper body strength, proprioception and aerobic conditioning, according to Harvard Health Science.

The researchers did note that further studies are needed to confirm the result. MIMS

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