It's just about the slowest and easiest form of exercise on the planet -- but what tai chi lacks in flash, it more than makes up for in benefits.

These simple Chinese stretching exercises have been shown to help seniors beat everything from pain to depression -- and now, new research shows that they can also help improve balance and prevent falls.

Falls are a leading cause of loss of independence in seniors. The breaks and fractures often require long and even permanent hospitalization -- and with the rise of hospital-acquired infections, any admission for any reason has the potential to be your last.

But if the new study is any indication, you can dramatically lower your risk of a life-changing or life-ending fall through tai chi.

In the new study, researchers assigned 70 seniors from assisted-living homes to either four months of tai chi or musical instruction.

Music is nice -- but those who went to the 90-minute tai chi classes three times a week learned critical skills such as weight shifting, awareness of body alignment, and the rotation of the head and trunk.

As a result, the study in Age and Ageing found that these seniors had significant improvements in their ability to balance and the awareness of the position of their limbs than those who learned music.

And if boosting your balance and slashing your risk of a fall aren't enough, that's not all tai chi can do for you.

Studies have found that these slow stretches can help bring relief from arthritis and osteoarthritis, boost overall physical function, beat depression, and even improve your quality life.

Along with being easy, tai chi is cheap or even free. There may be a group practicing tai chi in your local park, library, or senior center.

And if you can't find one near you, you're only a mouse click away from some free lessons -- search YouTube for "tai chi” for some simple exercises you can do right now, in front of your computer.