Following a fall at home, Judy Bielicki, 80, required a total hip replacement. Six weeks later, she walked into to her post-operative check-up at the hospital without the assistance of aids, much to the surprise of doctors. Ms Bielicki attributed her speedy recovery from the operation to her regular practise of tai chi, as well as a brief stay in a rehabilitation unit.
Ms Bielicki started her tai chi practise three years ago, initially seeing it as a chance to connect with new people and try a new form of exercise. Attending the class twice a week she warns tai chi is “not just a matter of waving your hands around” and it requires concentration on the movements and positions being led by a qualified instructor.
Judy says that “Tai Chi provides the ideal combination of mindfulness, gentle exercise and the companionship of like-minded folk”.
Have you or someone you know had a fall recently or have a fear of falling? As we grow older we lose muscle strength and balance and this can lead to a fall. Recent research has shown that being physically active can reduce the risk of falls. Older adults are turning to alternative evidence-based exercise like Tai Chi. The good news is that it’s not only beneficial for strengthening muscle but memory too.
The Tai Chi for Arthritis program is easy, enjoyable and safe for older people living in the community to learn. The evidence-based program is a gentle workout that incorporates tai chi principles for improving balance, strength, and wellbeing. In 2007, Southern NSW Local Health District established a volunteer Physical Activity Leader Network, providing training and ongoing support to Tai Chi leaders. The network currently has 40 leaders who run low cost classes for over 500 people a week in rural communities in Southern NSW.
As one Tai Chi leader explains, “it helps with strengthening the leg muscles and assists with thinking about shifting your weight before you pick up your feet”. This demonstrates that the benefits of tai chi are far-reaching both physically and mentally. It is an important fall prevention strategy, because as we get older we tend to shuffle rather than pick up our feet. “[Tai chi also] helps with memory, remembering the movements and keeping your mind focused; using both the right and left side of the brain”.
Search the Active and Healthy website www.activeandhealthy.nsw.gov.au to find a Tai Chi program in your local area.
With thanks to Judy Bielicki (Pictured centre) and the Southern NSW Local Health District Health Promotion Unit.
Photo: Marcella Levey