Seniors can learn tai chi to help arthritis, fall prevention

  • A Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention class in progress. Pictured are Instructor Diana Nielsen, left, Anita Grandpre and Beverly Adams, front right.

    A Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention class in progress. Pictured are Instructor Diana Nielsen, left, Anita Grandpre and Beverly Adams, front right. Courtesy of James Adams

 
Submitted by Diana Nielsen
Updated 1/7/2020 10:39 AM

The CDC estimates that more than one in four adults 65 years and older will fall each year. Out of these falls, one in five will result in serious injury, such as broken bones and head injuries.

In addition, the Arthritis Foundation estimates that more than 50 million adults suffer from one of the many forms of arthritis, resulting in pain, stiffness, swelling and decreased ability to perform normal daily tasks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention is an evidence-based program recommended by both the Arthritis Foundation and the National Council on Aging to manage arthritis and reduce fall risk, increase balance and flexibility, and decrease stress.

The Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program was developed by Dr. Paul Lam, a family physician in Sydney, Australia, who developed arthritis while still in his teens due to the malnutrition he experienced while growing up in China. Dr. Lam used Tai Chi to manage his own arthritis and eventually worked with Tai Chi, medical and education experts to create this program.

The Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program uses the Sun style of Tai Chi, which has been modified to make it gentle on the joints, easy to learn and significantly safer for older adults than other forms of Tai Chi.

Often described as "meditation in motion," it consists of slow, continuous movements with a focus on body awareness, posture, weight shifting and calming the mind. While the movements appear gentle and graceful, they contain a surprising internal power.

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The power of the Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program has been demonstrated in numerous medical studies by showing a significant decrease both in falls and in the pain and stiffness of arthritis.

"I love introducing people to this program and watching their balance and confidence improve. I have practiced other styles of tai chi for years, but find this form is best for my own arthritis," said instructor Diana Nielsen, certified teacher of the Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program at Amita Health Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital.

Each class consists of warm up and cool down exercises, a review of previously learned moves, and the learning of one or two new moves in a positive learning atmosphere. Over the course of the program, participants will build the balance and muscular strength that is important in both preventing falls and in stabilizing and protecting arthritic joints.

One does not need to have arthritis or a history of falls to benefit from this program. It is geared toward adults 55 and older who would like a gentle, low-impact program that will increase their balance, mobility, flexibility and lower body strength while decreasing stress.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Tai chi student Beverly Adams of Elk Grove Village said this program has been "very rewarding," and that the "classes have been extremely helpful in my rehabilitation from knee and hip replacement surgery."

The Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention program is being offered at the Amita Health Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital, 935 Beisner Road, in Elk Grove Village. It consists of six, one-hour class sessions and is taught by Nielsen.

New classes will start at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, and 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 18. Cost for both classes is $60 for six, one-hour sessions.

Register in advance by calling (847) 981-5556, option 2. All participants for this program must be able to walk unassisted for at least 100 feet for safety. For more information about this class, email TCAFP.DN@gmail.com.

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