Tai chi classes at libraries to help improve balance, add to flexibility

Apr. 21—HULBERT — Tai chi classes are being held at the Hulbert Community Library for the next six weeks by the Oklahoma Healthy Aging Initiative.

The Chinese martial art, tai chi, improves balance and prevents falls in older adults. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, tai chi is more focused on health promotion and rehabilitation.

“It works on balance strengthening. It helps other things like sleep better and over health,” said Jenna Chavez, community outreach coordinator for Oklahoma University Health Science Center in Tulsa.

The six-week classes are on Monday and Wednesday, 10 to 11 am until May 25. Attendees will learn how to improve their mind, body and spirit through a series of slow, continuous movements.

Chavez said one of the benefits of tai chi, amid the pandemic, is that it allows people to venture out and socialize. In-person classes were suspended in 2020 due to COVID, and educators held classes online to accommodate their vulnerable population.

“I think it mentally helps as well, because we’ve been locked up in our homes all by ourselves,” she said. “Maybe we’ll see people every once in a while, but other than that, we don’t get to a lot.”

Participants will begin each session with warming up and breathing exercises.

“We do what is called a sunrise/sunset, and those are honestly deep breaths. We’ll go through eight movements of this tai chi and then we’ll cool down,” said Chavez. “Obviously we work our way up to the eight moves, and on Monday, we worked on that first move and it’s our base move.”

The NCCIH reported that 869 participants were part of nine studies in 2019, when it was determined that tai chi had a small positive effect on the quality of life and depressive symptoms for adults who have chronic conditions.

A 2018 study suggests tai chi also helped alleviate cancer-related symptoms, such as fatigue, difficulty sleeping and overall quality of life.

Chavez said she has seen participants who were able to increase their balance and become more flexible after the classes.

“I had a lady and she walked with a cane, and by the end, she had significantly change in her balance so that she was able to walk without her cane,” she said. “I’m not saying that’s going to happen for everybody, but it truly does help with balance.”

Chavez will be teaching “A Matter of Balance” classes at the Tahlequah City Library starting May 2.

“It’s an intro to exercise and sometimes we have participants that, when they hear the word ‘exercise,’ it’s really intimidating after years of probably not doing a lot. Or maybe mobility has shifted as we’ve aged,” she said.

OHAI is a program of the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at The University of Oklahoma and is supported by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The services are funded by the Title III Older Americans Act through SAC Nutrition Services, Eastern Oklahoma Development District Area Agency on Aging, and Department of Human Services Aging Services.

You’re invited

Those interested in taking the free class must register as space is limited at jenna-chavez@ouhsc.edu or call 918-660-3172.

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