Seniors spread their wings to well being

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The MACS Mindful Moves Program, with its stand-alone offerings of Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi to residents and community home care consumers is something of a wellness revolution. And Tai Chi alone, the gentle, low impact form of exercise can be called just that. As a kind of meditation in slow-motion movement, it helps maintain strength, flexibility, and balance. There’s growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, offers great promise as a complementary therapy to standard medical treatment.

This is nothing new, though. For many years, the New South Wales Health Department of Australia reported a high falls figure for older people—far higher than from injuries of any other source including road trauma. In 2001, this Department funded the world’s largest fall prevention study in a community setting. The majority of participants were taught the Tai Chi for Arthritis program. This study found that recurring falls were reduced by nearly 70%. It also found that building confidence—a fundamental component of the Tai Chi for Arthritis program—correlates closely to the reduced rate of falling.

The Department of Health has posted the Tai Chi For health Institute and Tai Chi Association of Australia’s submission for Government funding. They have a  list of the great well-being bonuses attributed to Tai Chi practice.

These include:

Pain management, particularly for arthritis.

Postural stability.

Muscle strength.

Falls reduction – and reducing risk of repeat falls by 47%.

Moderating blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, stress and anxiety.

Improving quality of life, sleep, immune and cardiovascular function.

The good news is that the MACS trainer, Daniela Costa is specifically and currently trained in The Exercise Medicine Australia Tai Chi for Health Falls Prevention Program. The program promotes falls intervention techniques. The MACS program is chair-based, (modified for a sitting position), and this means that all of our participants can take part. The program has been designed specifically for those who have limited or compromised mobility due to frailty, injury or cognitive impairment.

Key techniques Daniela uses to achieve strength, balance and decrease fatigue include using a low moderate intensity, (comparable to leisure cycling), intentional weight shifting, natural abdominal breathing and chest expansion. Daniela said, “Wonderful results can occur through graceful, simple movement. It doesn’t mean that a participant just has to demonstrate actions such as a ‘white crane spreading its wings’ — or a martial arts move, such as ‘box both ears.’”

As participants move, they breathe deeply and naturally, focusing their attention — as in some kind of meditation — on their own bodily sensations. Tai Chi movements are usually circular and never forced; the muscles are relaxed rather than tensed; the joints are not fully extended; connective tissues are never stretched.

Tai Chi Moves still utilises the core values of Tai Chi; slow movements working against gravity and using only the weight of the body to provide resistance. And there’s absolutely no equipment. Daniela cites other benefits such as increased flexibility in enhancing range of motion and improved hand and foot eye co-ordination.  She believes that an overall improvement in wellness happens also due to stress reduction and peace of mind.

No wonder Peter M. Wayne, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program at Harvard Medical School’s Osher Research Center praises Tai Chi. He sees it as a complementary therapy to primary medical treatments, either to address a disease itself or its primary symptoms, or, to improve functioning and quality of life.  He says there’s “A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for Tai Chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age,”

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