Comparison of telecommunication, community, and home-based Tai Chi exercise programs on compliance and effectiveness in elders at risk for falls

Ge Wu, Lawrence Keyes, Peter Callas, Xiaolin Ren, Bea Bookchin
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2010, 91 (6): 849-56

OBJECTIVE: To compare the adherence to and effectiveness of Tai Chi exercise program through a live, interactive, telecommunication-based exercise (Tele-ex) with that of a similar program through a community center-based exercise (Comm-ex) and a home video-based exercise (Home-ex) among community-dwelling elders who are at risk for falls.

DESIGN: Three groups randomized controlled trial with pretests and posttests.

SETTING: Exercise programs were community-based, and the outcome measures were laboratory-based.

PARTICIPANTS: Adults (N=64) age 65+ years with positive fall history in the previous year and/or significant fear of falling.

INTERVENTION: A 24-form, Yang-style Tai Chi for 15 weeks, 3 hours a week.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Exercise compliance, number of falls, fear of falling (Activities-specific Balance Confidence [ABC] score), self-perceived health (Medical Outcomes Study 36-Item Short Form Health Survey [SF-36]), Timed Up & Go (TUG), single leg stance (SLS), and body sway during quiet stance (medial-lateral foot center of pressure [ML-COP]).

RESULTS: Tele-ex and Comm-ex groups demonstrated significantly higher exercise attendance and in-class practice time than the Home-ex group (P<.01) and significant reductions in the mean number of falls and injurious falls (P<.01). There were significant improvements posttraining in SLS, ABC, ML-COP, and Physical Health subscore of the SF-36 (P<.05). Both Tele-ex and Comm-ex groups demonstrated larger improvements than the Home-ex group in TUG, ML-COP, and the Social Function, Mental Health, and Physical Health subscores of the MOS SF-36.

CONCLUSION: Compared with the Home-ex, the Tele-ex and Comm-ex groups are better in exercise compliance, fall reduction and balance and health improvements. Tele-ex is an effective, affordable, and acceptable choice of exercise for elders.

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