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Gait Posture. 2012 Jul;36(3):361-6. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2012.03.029. Epub 2012 May 4.

Biomechanical characteristics of stepping in older Tai Chi practitioners.

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  • 1Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, United States.


This study compared the biomechanical characteristics of stepping in 10 older (aged 55+ years) Tai Chi (TC) practitioners and 10 age-matched non-TC (NTC) controls. Subjects were asked to take a step on an auditory cue as fast as possible, in the forward and backward directions, and with and without mental distractions, respectively. Stepping characteristics included step initiation time, preparation time for foot off, foot contact time, and step length and width. The results showed that both groups had similar step initiation time, step length and forward step width (p>0.466). Although mental distraction significantly delayed step initiation time and foot contact time, and shortened step length in both groups (p<0.003), TC practitioners had significantly shorter preparation and foot contact time, and wider backward step width than controls regardless of mental distraction (p<0.024). These group differences are in favor of TC practitioners in situations of postural recovery from potential falls, even with mental distractions, and may explain the positive effect of TC practice on fall reduction in older adults.

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