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Balance Training Better Than Tai Chi at Improving Mobility in Older Adults

ogram has been proven to reduce falls, notes lead author Joseph O. Nnodim, M.D., Ph.D., clinical instructor in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at the U-M Health System and a research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor GRECC.

The researchers add that the CBST program requires no specialized equipment or advanced training for the instructor. “It’s a very easy program to implement,” says Alexander, director of the Mobility Research Center at the U-M Geriatrics Center.

The study lasted 10 weeks, and participants did three one-hour sessions a week with an instructor. Of the 162 people in the study, 81 were in the CBST group and 81 were in the Tai Chi classes. All were ages 65 and older.

Participants performed several tests at the beginning and end of the study, including balance measures in which they were timed while they stood with one foot forward and while they stood on one leg – tests called tandem stance and unipedal stance. They also were measured while stepping as far as they could in three directions: forward, to the side and backward (the maximal step length test). Another measure had them take a series of steps and return quickly to the starting position (rapid step test), and a final test measured how quickly they rose from sitting in a chair, walked three meters, turned and returned to the seat (timed up and go).

After initial testing, the participants were assigned to one of the two fall-prevention training options. The CBST classes included activities in which participants moved their upper bodies while bouncing and catching a ball; increasing the complexity of ambulatory tasks, such as changing direction to walk forward or laterally; walking on a plank; turning, bending and stepping on and off curbs; stepping over obstacles; and more. The tai chi classes focused on body alignment; weight shifts, including standing on one leg; hip and ankle rotations; stepping motions backward, forward and laterally; and more
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