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Ask the doctor: Can tai chi improve balance?

Q. I’ve been very unstable on my feet lately. Can tai chi help improve my balance?

A. Tai chi, an integrative exercise program that strengthens the body while focusing the mind, addresses a range of physical and mental health issues, including bone strength, joint stability, cardiovascular health, immunity, and emotional well-being. Tai chi is especially useful for improving balance.

Studies have shown tai chi to significantly reduce falls in older adults. Tai chi helps improve balance because it targets all the physical components needed to stay upright—leg strength, flexibility, range of motion, and reflexes—all of which tend to decline with age. Tai chi also makes you more aware of both your internal body and the external world, giving you a better sense of your position in space, so you won’t be as likely to trip and fall if you try to simultaneously talk to a friend and navigate a busy sidewalk.

Tai chi is appropriate for most ages and fitness levels, and it’s safe even if you have a chronic disease. To get started, look for tai chi classes in your community. Try a few until you find one that is convenient and appropriate for you.

— Celeste Robb-Nicholson, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Women’s Health Watch

Posted by: Dr.Health

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