Balance is improved with Tai Chi

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Local seniors worked to improve their health and balance by learning Tai Chi in recognition of National Falls Prevention Week, recognized from Sept. 22 to Sept. 28.

The purpose of the week is to introduce adults 65 and older to activities that will help them with movement and balance in order to prevent falls that could lead to severe injuries or death.

Joseph Whiting, director of health promotion, education and behavior at Phoenix Health Education and Wellness Center on Rast Street, participated in the national event by hosting two free Tai Chi classes at Swan Lake-Iris Gardens.

Tai Chi is an evidence-based program that has been shown to increase a person's balance and bring relief to arthritis patients over time with consistent practice, Whiting said.

He said Tai Chi, translated to mean supreme ultimate, was originally a martial art practiced in ancient China.

It is a health exercise that helps heal the body through the cultivation of chi, or energy, as a person focuses on his or her stance and the movements of their legs, feet, arms and hands, he said.

Whiting said in recent years, Western medicine has recognized the health benefits of practices such as Tai Chi.

Most people exercise to build strength while Tai Chi can benefit many aspects of a person's well being with the combination of fluid movements and a clear mind, he said.

Your health can improve with regular exercise, and you can start with something gentle, Whiting said.

Whiting began his journey to improve his physical health at the age of 40 and now wants to help others after seeing how his health has improved after exercising regularly and eating healthily.

Whiting started practicing Tai Chi two years ago while searching for ways to deal with arthritis in his knees. Soon after, he became a Tai Chi instructor.

Now 62, Whiting said he wants to be a spokesman and example for other people his age.

Tai Chi is good for people who have balance issues, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety and other issues, he said.

Linda Young has been attending Whiting's class at Sumter Family YMCA for about three months at the recommendation of her physical therapist.

Young was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2015.

She said practicing Tai Chi gives her energy and helps with her balance because she sometimes has difficult walking.

"Some days I can't do much, but it helps," Young said. "It's made a big difference."

Whiting said the form of Tai Chi that he teaches is perfect for older people because it can be done by keeping the body upright.

Whiting, who has placed first in multiple national Tai Chi tournaments, teaches Tai Chi at a few local senior living facilities as well as at Sumter YMCA at 11:15 a.m. on Fridays. Lessons at YMCA are free to gym members.

For more information about falls prevention or Tai Chi, contact Joseph Whiting at (803) 774-2085 or phoenixhealtheducation@gmail.com.