Know the Evidence: QIGONG and BALANCE and FALL PREVENTION

The strongest evidence base establishing the therapeutic benefit of Qigong/Tai chi practice
is in the areas of balance and fall prevention where comparative study has shown this
ancient Eastern modality to be equivalent to and in some cases superior to traditional
modes of balance training exercise and more cost-effective.
A panel of researchers, led by Dr. Leslie Gillespie, out of New Zealand, updated a Cochrane
review first published in 2009. These researchers reviewed 159 trials including 79,193
participants addressing multiple fall prevention interventions. They concluded that
engagement in group and home-based exercise programs, and home safety interventions
reduce rate of falls and risk of falling. Among exercise programs compared, Tai chi was
found to be effective for reducing risk of falling.
Gillespie LD, Robertson MC, Gillespie WJ, Sherrington C, Gates S, Clemson LM, Lamb
SE. (2012) Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;9:CD007146. doi:
10.1002/14651858.CD007146.pub3.
Since publication of the Gillespie et al Cochrane review, more studies have confirmed that
the practice of Tai chi is effective for fall prevention and considered to be more cost-
effective as compared to more traditional exercise programs.
Mat S, Tan MP, Kamaruzzaman SB, Ng CT. Physical therapies for improving balance
and reducing falls risk in osteoarthritis of the knee: a systematic review. Age Ageing.
2015;44 (1):16-24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afu112
Song R, Ahn S, So H, Lee EH, Chung Y, Park M. Effects of T’ai Chi on balance: a
population-based meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
2015;21:141-51
Two RCT’s investigating effects of tai chi in fall prevention are notable. In 2005, Dr. Fuzong
Li, out of Oregon Research Institute, and colleagues reported findings of an RCT involving
256 physically inactive, community-dwelling older adults. They concluded that a 3 x’s/wk,
6-month Tai Chi program is effective in decreasing the number of falls, the risk for falling,
and the fear of falling, and it improves functional balance and physical performance in
physically inactive persons aged 70 years or older.
Li F, Harmer P, Fischer KJ, McAuley E., Chaumelon N, Eckstrom W, Wilson NL. (2005)
Tai chi and fall reductions in older adults; a randomized controlled trial. J Gerontol A
Biol Sci Med Sci. 2005 Feb;60(2):187-94. PMID: 15814861
Additionally in 2013, Dr. Tousignant of Sherbrooke, Quebec and colleagues reported results
of an RCT involving 152 frail older adults and found that 15-wks of Tai chi practice was
more effective than conventional physical therapy for fall prevention.
Tousignant M, Corriveau H, Roy PM, Desrosiers J, Dubuc N, Hébert R. Efficacy of
supervised Tai Chi exercises versus conventional physical therapy exercises in fall
prevention for frail older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Disabil Rehabil. 2013
Aug;35(17):1429-35. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2012.737084. Epub 2012 Nov 20.
PubMed PMID: 23167499.
Also of note, is a cost/benefit analysis of the Tai chi: Moving for Better Balance program.
This study found the Tai chi: Moving for Better Balance program superior to two well-
known traditional exercise and fall prevention education programs (Otago and Stepping
On). The return on investment (ROI) for the Tai chi intervention was estimated at 509% for
dollar spent.
Carande-Kulis V, Stevens JA, Florence CS, Beattie B, Arias I. (2015) A cost-benefit
analysis of three older adult prevention interventions. (2015) J Safety Res 52:65-70
doi: 10.1016/j.jsr.2014.12.007. Epub 2015 Jan 6. PMID: 25662884
Source: KNOW THE EVIDENCE 2017: A report of the NQA Research and Education Committee Jun 30, 2017
 Major contributors: PJ Klein, PT, EdD (contact: kleinqpj@roadrunner.com), J Baumgarden, DPT
Kathy Levac RN MS is the chair of the NQA Research and Education Committee
This edition of the ‘Know the Evidence’ resource exists as a chapter authored by PJ Klein, PT,
EdD and J. Baumgarden, DPT in the text ‘Heal Yourself with Qigong’ by Master George Picard,
Village of Healing and Wellness, St Catharines, ONT, Canada, and is reprinted with their
permission. Picard G. Heal Yourself with Qigong 2nd ed. Spiral Graphics:Canada. 2017.