‘The exercise helping reduce my need for pain-relieving medication’

Mar 23, 2019
A group of over-60s practising tai chi in the park. (Photograph posed by models.) Source: Getty Images

Practising tai chi can assist us to better manage our health and wellbeing. Tai chi is a slow-moving meditative exercise, relevant for all ages and modified to suit, it combines stress reduction with movement to improve health. It began in ancient China about 500 years ago and is practised by millions of people around the world today. It has many forms, founded by the ancient masters, and is now modified and styled for purposeful benefits, such as arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, rehabilitation and mental health. In some instances, Tai Chi is practised with the support of a chair, either sitting or standing as appropriate to the participants mobility.

I have been practising two (standing) modified forms of tai chi for just over two years, with positive, beneficial health improvements that include a better balance, increased strength and flexibility, an ability to manage stress more positively and feeling less arthritic pain in affected parts of my body. These benefits have seen a decrease in the number of pain-relieving medications I have needed, in addition to a general sense of wellbeing and comfort.

Taking the first step to join a class was a big effort, but I enrolled and attended the first session, dragging a not-too-inclined, but supportive friend with me. I found the beginners’ class through my local government’s ‘Seniors’ Activities’ page online, so I felt it would be relevant to my age and fitness. It was, and from the first moment I joined, my body was happy as this was the type of exercise it craved and needed. My friend left the class to pursue a more cardio-related exercise program, but I continued, attending two, one-hour classes a week, with regular practise at home using instructional DVDs. I initially learned a form called ‘tai chi for energy’ but now practise ‘tai chi for arthritis’ (sometimes known as ‘tai chi for arthritis for fall prevention’) and the Yang style 24 forms.

Recently I completed an intensive three-day tai chi workshop to learn and improve the latter two forms of my practice. The workshop was amazing, I had to travel interstate, but I met and practised with our master trainer, senior trainers and many other like-minded participants. I have returned from this experience feeling at least two inches taller and so much more confident.

Tai chi is not expensive to learn and in my experience most seniors’ classes are subsidised by local government or community-based organisations, however instructors still charge to cover their time, travel, insurances and certification. There are also online courses and instructional DVDs available for purchase, to train and practise with at home.

I initially started tai chi for the exercise and to decrease my stress levels, however, I have found many additional and unexpected benefits, which include improved health, more flexibility, less pain, new friendships, and a feeling of being part of a broader like-minded community and of course, better health and wellbeing.

There is scientific proof that exercise or being active is essential for good health, and that is important for us older individuals, especially if we have arthritis. Personally, I have found tai chi to be a comfortable and positive exercise, with many health and extra social benefits, and share with confidence, that with participation and practise it may prove beneficial to the health of other over-60s.

Starts at 60 advises that you should always seek your GP’s advice before making changes to your medication.

Do you practise tai chi? Is there a form of exercise you do that helps with your health and wellbeing?

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