Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Exercise and Health Science

First Advisor

Tongjian You

Second Advisor

Suzanne G. Leveille

Third Advisor

Ling Shi


Slower reaction time increases the risk of falls in older adults with chronic pain. Tai Chi as a mind-body exercise can potentially improve reaction time to lower the risk of falls. The purpose of this study was to conduct a secondary analysis from the Helping Elders Living with Pain (HELP) study examining simple and choice reaction time between a tai chi group and a light exercise group in a population of older adults with multisite pain who were at risk of falls. Thirty nine participants (age = 74.08±7.52 years; 10 males and 29 females) attended either tai chi or light exercise for 1 hour each session, two sessions each week for 12 weeks. Simple and choice step reaction times were measured in a seated position before and after the intervention period by using the PKMAS software and Zeno Walkway gait mat. Independent t-tests were used to compare the pre- and post- changes between the two exercise groups. Participants’ age and gender were adjusted for the group comparisons. The results showed no significant differences between groups in simple reaction time (tai chi: -0.03 ± 0.14 s vs 0.02 ± 0.05 s, p = 0.19) or choice reaction time (tai chi: 0.00 ± 0.12s vs 0.00 ± 0.05s, p = 0.28). In conclusion, a 12 week tai chi intervention did not improve simple or choice step reaction times in older adults with chronic pain and at risk for falls. Larger studies with longer study terms are needed to see a definite effect of tai chi on reaction time in this population.


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