Each year, more than 30 million falls are reported among adults 65 and older. While increased numbers of falls are associated with older adults, falls are not a normal part of aging. Medical experts recommend staying active and completing activities that strengthen your legs and improve balance. Tai Chi activities on land and Ai Chi in water have produced promising results in reducing fall risk.
What is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi, also known as shadowboxing, is a Chinese martial art used therapeutically for encouraging slow, controlled movements using wide and narrow stances to promote safe movement in various bases of support.
What is Ai Chi?
Ai (meaning “love”) Chi (“breath/essence/ being”) is a series of water-based activities designed to encourage body relaxation while also promoting general strengthening and improved joint mobility. It consists of slow movements coordinated with deep breathing methods in shoulder-deep heated water. Like Tai Chi, it also promotes stable balance in narrow and wide stances.
Ai Chi consists of 19 movements beginning with simple breathing techniques combined with gentle movement in progressions that begin with the upper extremities, trunk, and lower extremities to eventually whole-body movements. These are performed with a gradually narrowing base of support to progress the difficulty over the course of the movements. This is done to challenge balance from static to dynamic positions incorporating symmetrical and asymmetrical movements while also reducing reliance on vision to test vestibular control.
How Can Ai Chi Help Me?
Muscle strengthening alone (i.e. lifting weights) is not sufficient to reduce fall risks. Adding Ai Chi training to your exercise program will incorporate strengthening tasks using water for resistance, while also allowing the buoyant properties of water to support balance.
Ai Chi is often practiced in group classes or one-on-one therapy sessions to build confidence until you are able to independently practice.
Arizona Orthopedic Physical Therapy offers Ai Chi and Aquatic Therapy at our Buckeye location. If you are concerned about your ability to stay upright, please request an evaluation to determine if aquatic therapy is right for you.
By Blake McDonald, PT, DPT
AzOPT Buckeye Physical and Aquatic Therapist