Tai chi reduces risk of injury

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2007, 12:00am

Elderly people are being encouraged to practise tai chi after a study showed it can reduce their chances of falling and suffering an injury.

Between April 2005 and March last year, hospital admissions of elderly people as a result of falls accounted for 300,000 bed-days in public hospitals, or 3.8 per cent of inpatient services.

In January 2005 a city-wide fall-prevention programme was launched in collaboration with more than 100 NGOs to offer simplified tai chi classes to the elderly.

About 4,400 people aged 60 years or above have taken part in the courses. Of these, 3,221, with a mean age of 72.2, were recruited for a study from January 2005 to last March.

The study recorded the participants' admissions to accident and emergency departments as a result of falls one year before and after they had taken the tai chi course.

Up to March, fewer of the 893 people who continued to practise tai chi regularly after the course had to go to A&E departments because of falls a year after the course, compared with the year before it.

Their injurious-fall rate fell from 2.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent, while the general fall rate was also reduced, from 4.9 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

For the 681 who learned tai chi but did not keep practising it, the injurious-fall rate increased from 2.6 per cent to 4 per cent and the general fall rate from 5.1 per cent to 6.6 per cent.

The researchers could not get information from the remaining 1,647 tai chi learners.

The Hospital Authority's senior statistician, Eva Tsui Lai-ying, said this was the first time such a large-scale local study had proved that tai chi had a beneficial effect in preventing injuries. 'Tai chi emphasises balancing and is easy for the elderly to practise,' she said.

Painful blow

The annual cost in HK dollars of treating elderly people in hospital for falls, including rehabilitation services: $1b