During the past three months, I have participated in a research project for the University of Connecticut. The focus of the study was to determine if Tai Chi could increase the strength, balance and stamina in seniors over 65. Statistically, one in three Americans 65 and older fall each year, and of these 20-30 percent suffer a significant injury. Falling is the principal cause of injury deaths in adults. Armed with this information and an intense but skeptical curiosity, I attended a Tai Chi class for one hour, three times a week over the next three months. At first I felt very awkward and clumsy as I learned the forms; however, as time passed, I became more deliberate and polished. At the end of the study, I did become stronger and my balance greatly increased. I was more impressed, though, with the increase in the range of motion in my shoulders and other joints. I had a bad dislocated shoulder when I was younger. This always gave me a certain amount of pain when I extended my arm vertically. Now I can make that movement virtually pain free. My sense about why this happened is that the movements in Tai Chi are slow and deliberate. You adapt to the form so that it is comfortable for you, increasing in slow increments, never pushing yourself to where it is painful and never moving so quickly that you overextend a movement to the point where you hurt yourself. Over time Tai Chi strengthens the muscles encapsulating the joints thus making them more stable. When I exercised traditionally, I would work certain parts of my body intensely often neglecting others. Tai Chi enables me to work most of my muscles and joints moderately while consistently improving my overall well being. I also found the class, the environment and the manner in which Tai Chi is practiced rewarding and enjoyable. After the study, I adopted this particular Tai Chi form as a part of my life plan.
– By Hello! Home Care contributing writer Bill Mishico