Even if we can’t do all the physical activities we used to do, Tai Chi offers an option for moving, stretching and strengthening the body that is not strenuous. Tai Chi engages the entire body with its gentle, flowing movements. This increases circulation of both the blood and lymph, helping to clear the waste products of our metabolism from the body. It also stimulates the production of synovial fluid in the joints which can ease joint pain. The old phrase “use it or lose it” is really true.
Tai Chi also improves muscular strength, balance and postural control. Older adults who practice Tai Chi are half as likely to fall as people of similar age who do not exercise. This is because Tai Chi practice involves weight-bearing and non-weight-bearing stances, correct body alignment and posture and multiple coordinated movements executed in a continuous, circular and flowing manner. When we begin the form, we bend our knees and remain in that bent-knee posture for the duration of the practice. This stance requires that the leg and hip muscles work harder, which builds strength in the lower body. Increased lower body strength enhances balance.
The circular nature of the movements also improves balance. We turn at the waist with our arms extended at the same time we step using the bent-knee stepping mentioned above. This requires the mind to concentrate on keeping the body upright and stable while moving in multiple directions at the same time.
Tai Chi also helps reduce tension and pain. Most people carry tension in their bodies to some extent without even being aware of it. Tension causes pain. Working at the computer is particularly hard on the upper shoulders and neck. The deep relaxed breathing, slow, gentle movements and meditative nature of Tai Chi all work together to help us let go of tension and let go of pain.
There are many studies that have verified the benefits of Tai Chi. In a 40 person study at Tufts University, presented in October 2008 at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, an hour of Tai Chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis.
Beginning: Thursday 11:00 to 11:50 a.m. at MountainView Fitness Center and Saturday 2:30 to 3:30 at HOA1 Fitness Center
Intermediate: Saturday Noon to 1:00 p.m. at HOA1 Fitness Center
Advanced: Saturday 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. at HOA1 Fitness Center
Beginning classes are $11 per class or purchase five tickets for $54. Advanced registration is recommended. For information please call Carol or Ken Emerson at 825-9206