Tai Chi classes to help prevent falls and improve health

Treatment of injuries due to falls costs our health care system more than $30 billion a year in direct medical costs. At the same time, evidence-based studies show that tai chi is one of the most effective exercises to prevent falls.

Now residents in Tioga County can attend a tai chi class close to home. Starting in mid-September there will be Tai Chi for Arthritis classes in Candor and Owego. These classes are offered as part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and New York State Department of Health “Fall Prevention” initiative.

According to the CDC, one in three adults aged 65 and older falls each year, and of those who fall, 20 to 30 percent suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently. Overall, older adults are hospitalized for fall-related injuries five times more often than they are for injuries from other causes.

Can a gentle exercise program really reduce those falls? Medical studies – more than 100 studies following more than 55,000 participants – show that doing tai chi improves balance, strengthens leg muscles, and decreases the risk of falls. Participants noticed other benefits as well: reduced pain from arthritis, increased flexibility, and a feeling of overall wellness. Tai chi is also good for brain health, as learning the sequences of movements helps the brain develop new neural connections.

Tai Chi for Arthritis will be offered in Candor on Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 1-2 p.m. at the Candor Emergency Squad building, 58 Main St. Classes begin Sept. 15.

Owego classes will meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10-11 a.m. at the Countryside Community Center, 9 Sheldon Guile Blvd. Classes begin Sept. 16 and are hosted by the Department of Aging, Tioga Opportunities Inc.

Tai Chi for Arthritis is taught by Sue Heavenrich, who is certified through the Tai Chi for Health Institute and is a member of the Tai Chi for Health Community. The classes are one hour each and meet two times a week for eight weeks. Each session includes warm-up and cool-down exercises as well as tai chi forms.

A course fee of $50 covers all 16 sessions plus helpful handouts. For more information, or to register for a class, contact Sue at (607) 659-3022 or by email to sueheaven@gmail.com.

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