AIM: To examine the effectiveness of cognitive-behavioural strategies with/without intense Tai Chi exercise in reducing fear of falling among community-dwelling elderly adults. Background. Fear of falling is a major health problem among community-dwelling older persons. The prevalence of this fear ranges from 29% to 77%, indicating the importance of developing effective strategies to reduce fear of falling among elderly adults. METHODS: Data were collected from January to December 2007. A randomized controlled trial with three groups (control, cognitive-behavioural and cognitive-behavioural with Tai Chi). Participants were assessed at baseline for demographic data, falls-related history, and fear of falling. Data on these variables plus falls, mobility, social support behaviour and satisfaction, and quality of life were also collected at 2 and 5 months after interventions. RESULTS: Participants in the three groups differed significantly in both measures of fear of falling (F = 20·89, P < 0·001; F = 6·09, P < 0·001) and mobility (F = 30·33, P < 0·001), social support behaviour and satisfaction (F = 3·32, P < 0·05 and F = 6·35, P < 0·001, respectively), and quality of life (F = 16·66, P< 0·001). In addition, participants who received the cognitive-behavioural intervention with Tai Chi had significantly lower fear of falling scores (P < 0·001) and higher mobility (P < 0·001), social support satisfaction (P < 0·01) and quality of life (P < 0·001) than the cognitive-behavioural alone and control groups at 5 months. The three groups did not differ significantly in falls. CONCLUSION: The results of this trial suggest that the cognitive-behavioural intervention with Tai Chi exercise helped community-dwelling elderly adults to enhance their mobility, to manage their fear of falling and to increase their quality of life.