Tai Chi exercise to improve balance and prevent falls among older people with dementia

Authors: Barrado-Martin, Y., Polman, R. and Nyman, S.R.

Editors: Feehan, J., Tripodi, N. and Apostolopoulos, V.

Pages: 363-372

Publisher: Academic Press

Place of Publication: London


The number of people affected by dementia across the world is estimated to grow over the coming decades. It is a condition that leads to global and non-reversible cognitive impairment. As well as creating dependency in everyday activities, dementia increases the risk of older people experiencing a fall. Falls are globally recognised as a public health problem, given their high prevalence and severe consequences among older people. Several interventions have been developed to prevent falls, with robust evidence to support exercise-based interventions and in particular Tai Chi. Tai Chi exercise is a mind-body exercise that has evidence to support its potential to improve physical, cognitive, and mental health more generally as well as prevent falls. Most exercise trials to date have excluded people with dementia, and so there is little evidence to guide the use of Tai Chi for this patient group. Further, the methodological quality and heterogeneity of approaches used in Tai Chi studies such as the exercise dose, outcomes measured, and how adherence was reported, makes it difficult to make firm conclusions. Emergent evidence suggests Tai Chi is an enjoyable and safe form of exercise for community-dwelling older people with mild to moderate dementia and their informal carers. It has strong potential to improve quality of life and prevent falls among this patient group. The mechanism for its effectiveness is not clear but it is potentially via a positive impact on both cognitive and physical functioning. Clinical practice recommendations for exercise prescribers are provided with an emphasis on how to attract and sustain high levels of adherence.

Source: Manual