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The Wu Yi Jie He Family System of Chinese Healing and Martial Arts

Tai Chi - Balance

Posted Sep 5th, 2007 in Articles

On Solid Ground - Tai Chi Helps Seniors Improve Their Balance, Movement

By Shannon Murphy - Times Herald        September 5, 2007 (The link to the article is no longer valid.)

Gladys Campbell holds onto the back of a chair as she sweeps one foot across the floor, then the other.

Campbell, 97, later makes her hand into a fist, imitating a simple Tai Chi movement.

She is part of a group of senior citizens who take Tai Chi classes each week at The Village at Mercy Health Center in Fort Gratiot.

Instructor Donna Roe, an occupational therapist for Mercy Home Health Care, said the goal of the classes is to reduce falls in the geriatric community, as well as strengthen muscles and increase endurance and range of motion.

"We focus on stretching and weight shifting," Roe said. "We try to get them out of their cone of support. One of the biggest problems (senior citizens) have is they try to reach too far, or stretch too far and they fall."

According to the Center for Disease Control Injury Center, falls are the leading cause of injury deaths among adults ages 65 and older. Many suffered injuries, such as hip fractures, making it hard to live independently.

Roe said in the past year of working the residents, she's seen the benefits of the Tai Chi class. Less than 1% of the active Tai Chi participants have experienced a fall in the past year, as compared to 27% of a control group that does not take the class.

According to Roe, the Tai Chi classes, which also incorporate deep breathing and stretching, help to increase senior citizens' range of motion, increases their blood oxygen level and reduce blood pressure. The breathing exercises help to circulate blood and oxygen increasing the health for residents. The Tai Chi movements not only stretch and work muscles that may otherwise not be used, it also strengthens the muscles. Many of the movements help strengthen senior citizens' grips, making it easier to do everyday tasks, such as opening jars.

Tai Chi originated in China as a form of self-defense. It has been incorporated as a meditation-style of exercise that has been around for about 2,000 years, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Campbell, who also is legally blind, uses the exercises at home.

"Once in a while, I'll have a pain that goes up my neck, so I'll (press my hand to the side of my head and stretch)," she said. "It goes away. It helps."

Norm Runyon, 82, typically takes the class for the social setting. But, as a victim of a stroke, his balance has declined.

While some of the movements can be difficult, Runyon said the class has helped him control his balance. Roe said the class also is designed to teach senior citizens how to shift their weight in case they are falling, making it easier to recover from a spill.

Rose Kirkpatrick, 93, also takes the class each Tuesday.

"It keeps me limber," she said, adding she also does movements at home to keep herself in shape.


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