Practicing tai chi helps older adults maintain their balance when their eyes are closed, according to a small study published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (2010; 91 [1], 9–14). Researchers from university facilities in Amiens Cedex, France, wanted to determine whether tai chi practice would provide healthy subjects aged 70–85 with more balance improvement than a specific balance training program. Investigators recruited 28 subjects and randomly
assigned them to 3 months of tai chi training or a 3-month balance training program based on static postural control and walking ability. There was no sedentary control group. Both training groups practiced twice a week for 30 minutes. Investigators assessed subjects at baseline and at the end of the program.

After 3 months, no significant differences were found in any subjects’ walking ability or upright standing control. The only change occurred among tai chi participants, who demonstrated more postural control with their eyes closed.

Study authors hypothesized that practicing tai chi might improve proprioception, since the discipline involves reproduction of movements and forms and consequently reduces visual dependency for postural control.