Teixeira (2007) Influence of Ai Chi on balance and fear of falling on older adults (portuguese)

Overview of the Study

This research focuses on the impact of Ai Chi, a water-based adaptation of T’ai Chi, on improving balance and reducing the fear of falling (FOF) among older adults. Given the significant risks associated with falls in the elderly, including increased morbidity and mortality, this study is both timely and relevant.

Significance of Aquatic Therapy

Falls present a critical issue in the elderly, leading to severe complications such as fractures and heightened dependence. Traditional balance training on land can be hindered by the fear of falling. Aquatic environments, with their natural buoyancy, offer a safer platform for such exercises, potentially enhancing confidence and minimizing FOF. This study underscores the potential of aquatic therapy to bolster the quality of life and autonomy among the elderly.

Study Participants

The study enrolled thirty frail, community-dwelling older adults from a day care center, dividing them randomly into experimental and control groups. Criteria for inclusion were individuals aged between 77 and 88 years, identified as having a medium to high risk of falling. Key exclusion criteria included undergoing physiotherapy or engaging in other physical activities during the study period, alongside standard contraindications to hydrotherapy.

Methodology Employed

Balance and FOF were assessed using the Performance-Oriented Mobility Assessment (POMA) and the Falls Efficacy Scale (FES), respectively. The experimental group underwent 16 Ai Chi sessions over six weeks, while the control group continued with their usual activities without any specific interventions.

Analysis and Results

The study employed the Wilcoxon signed rank test and the Mann-Whitney U test for its analysis, with Cohen’s d to measure effect size. Results indicated a significant improvement in balance for the experimental group, although no significant change in FOF was observed. The control group, conversely, showed no balance improvement but an increase in FOF.

Conclusions and Implications

Despite the small sample size, the findings suggest that Ai Chi can significantly enhance both static and dynamic balance in the elderly without increasing FOF. The study advocates for the inclusion of frail elderly individuals, especially those not averse to water, in aquatic programs to prevent falls.

Keywords: Ai Chi, aquatic therapy, balance, fear of falling, elderly, hydrotherapy, water-based exercises, rehabilitation, falls prevention

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