Dynamic balance and stepping versus tai chi training to improve balance and stepping in at-risk older adults

Joseph O Nnodim, Debra Strasburg, Martina Nabozny, Linda Nyquist, Andrzej Galecki, Shu Chen, Neil B Alexander
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2006, 54 (12): 1825-31

OBJECTIVES: To compare the effect of two 10-week balance training programs, Combined Balance and Step Training (CBST) versus tai chi (TC), on balance and stepping measures.

DESIGN: Prospective intervention trial.

SETTING: Local senior centers and congregate housing facilities.

PARTICIPANTS: Aged 65 and older with at least mild impairment in the ability to perform unipedal stance and tandem walk.

INTERVENTION: Participants were allocated to TC (n = 107, mean age 78) or CBST, an intervention focused on improving dynamic balance and stepping (n = 106, mean age 78).

MEASUREMENTS: At baseline and 10 weeks, participants were tested in their static balance (Unipedal Stance and Tandem Stance (TS)), stepping (Maximum Step Length, Rapid Step Test), and Timed Up and Go (TUG).

RESULTS: Performance improved more with CBST than TC, ranging from 5% to 10% for the stepping tests (Maximum Step Length and Rapid Step Test) and 9% for TUG. The improvement in TUG represented an improvement of more than 1 second. Greater improvements were also seen in static balance ability (in TS) with CBST than TC.

CONCLUSION: Of the two training programs, in which variants of each program have been proven to reduce falls, CBST results in modest improvements in balance, stepping, and functional mobility versus TC over a 10-week period. Future research should include a prospective comparison of fall rates in response to these two balance training programs.

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