Elderly people who suffer from failing eyesight can improve balance and protect themselves from dangerous falls by practicing Tai Chi, a type of internal Chinese martial art, suggests a new study.
Researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University set up a four-month programme for 40 people aged over 70 living in care homes. The volunteers had three 90-minute tai chi sessions a week.
Each session was planned to aid volunteers practise shifting their weight gradually, rotate their heads and torsos and become more aware of their limbs, consequently improving their co-ordination.
Results indicated that volunteers who practised had far better balance than a control group who were taught to play an instrument.
"Tai chi can be a suitable form of exercise for those with visual impairment and indeed assists with improving their balance control," the Daily Mail quoted study author Dr William Tsang as saying.
"It would be interesting to extend this study to involve community dwelling older people, who tend to be more independent and could benefit differently from the training.
"Tai chi practice requires conscious awareness of body position and extremity movements, which may improve joint proprioception [awareness].
"Repeated head movement is one of the important elements in tai chi, and this can help to stimulate the vestibular system to improve balance control," Dr Tsang added.
The study has been published in the Age and Ageing journal.