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Abstract

Background and Purpose. This study explored whether two exercise programs would affect the ability to minimize postural sway of 72 relatively inactive, older subjects who participated in the Atlanta FICSIT trial. Subjects. Subjects were randomly assigned to (1) a computerized balance training group, (2) a tai chi group, or (3) an educational group serving as a control for exercise. Each group consisted of 24 members. Methods. All subjects were evaluated under four postural conditions before, immediately after, and 4 months following their respective interventions, each of which was given over 15 weeks. Results. Platform balance measures revealed greater stability after training among subjects in the balance training group but little change in stability among subjects in the tai chi and educational group. Subjects in the tai chi group were less afraid of falling after training compared with subjects in other groups with similar covariates. Conclusion and Discussion. Unlike computerized balance training, tai chi does not improve measures of postural stability. Because tai chi delayed onset to first or multiple falls in older individuals, this effect does not appear to be associated with measures of enhanced postural stability. Tai chi may gain its success, in part, from promoting confidence without reducing sway rather than primarily facilitating a reduction in sway-based measures.

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  • Received August 8, 1996.
  • Accepted November 14, 1996.