"For many years my family and I visited Willow River State Park in Hudson, Wi. At that park is a fantastic tiered waterfall that folks love to walk and splash all over. I loved to follow my two kids around and play, but I was always shaky and unsure on the smooth rocks and flowing water. I spend more time stumbling than having fun. This year it was different, I have a new found sense of balance and sure-footedness. I haven't had that much fun at the falls in years."
The above is from Jerry, one of my students who has been practicing Tai Chi for several months.
No matter what age or physical condition, everyone needs better balance and muscle control. According to Stanwood Chang, a Tai Chi instructor at the Benson Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, “In just 12 weeks, I’ve seen people improve their balance and stability and walk faster and farther.”
Tai Chi works the glutes and quadriceps, the largest muscle groups in the body, which are the first to atrophy as we age. These muscles are very important to balance. As you move from one pose to another, gradually shifting weight and extending your legs, you challenge your balance. You also become more familiar with balance in a number of different positions. This brings more awareness to the soles of the feet, ankles and weight distribution. Bone density and joint stability also improve as you stretch and strengthen your muscles at the same time.
Tai Chi improves balance in healthy adults, those with neurological conditions and conditions or disorders that cause balance issues. A recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine found the program to be effective for Parkinson’s disease. Other studies found that improvement in balance equated to improvement in the quality of life for those recovering from stroke, patients with multiple sclerosis and those with other related conditions.
Tai Chi is more dynamic than it looks. According to Dr. Peter Wayne, research director at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, depending on intensity, Tai Chi is equivalent aerobically to a brisk walk and similar to more rigorous forms of weight training.
In other words, Tai Chi targets all physical components needed to stay upright: leg strength, range of motion, flexibility and reflexes, all of which decline as we age. Tai Chi also makes you more aware of your body and the external world. However, it is not just for the older population. Younger, more fit students will find that it can be quite demanding and invigorating. It all depends on the form being practiced. You might be surprised to find that even elite athletes practice Tai Chi for better balance and muscle control. Elite athlete or not, practicing Tai Chi has many physical and mental benefits.
Check out the class list and find the one that fits for you!