Focusing on balance, breathing and movement, Tai Chi could hold the key to better health for many senior citizens.
To answer that questions, the Oregon Public Health Division is sponsoring a 12-week research study - Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance for Seniors - in Hermiston.
The program begins Sept. 8 and will run from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The free class was developed for people over 65 and includes pre- and post-class assessments and a 12-week commitment.
The class will focus on posture, aligning joints, sinking body weight, movement and learning to breathe.
"Learning how to breathe is really important, because as we age, our lung capacity diminishes because we aren't as active," instructor Tom Bailor said while leading a class through warm-up exercises Wednesday. "Another part is becoming more aware of your movement. We tend to do a lot of movements, like walking, on autopilot. The reality of our modern life is we spend a lot of time in our cars, a lot of time in chairs, and so we don't do a lot of exercise, especially when we get older, but movement is really key not only for our physical health but for our mental health."
During his weekly classes, Bailor teaches a classical Tai Chi curriculum; the state-sponsored program will focus on simplified form and exercises developed as part of the grant's research design.
"That includes just a few selected movements that have been shown to improve balance and reduce falling," he said. "It will focus on simple moves that are easy to learn and easy to practice."
Funding for the study is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and distributed through the Oregon Department of Human Services.
"The CDC is interested in finding ways on the state level and the local level to create evidence-based programs that will reduce senior falls. They want to reduce the cost of hospitalization, early entry into long-term care, and engaging the community is the best way to do that," injury and prevention manager Lisa Millet said Thursday. "A fall for a senior can be the first step toward losing their independence and moving into long-term care. Tai Chi has been shown to help improve balance, improve confidence, flexibility, strength and the ability to move their weight up and down, strength, and these are all really good outcomes for individuals to keep them living at home."
With a limited number of spots, participants in the study will complete movement assessments before and after the class.
Registration forms for the class can be picked up at the Good Shepherd Wellness Center. For more information, call 541-667-3509.