MU Extension offers Tai Chi for Arthritis and Health classes online for the first time in Crawford and Dent Counties. Tai Chi instruction has been offered face to face in our region for the past year. To reach more of the public and follow COVID-19 health precautions the class will be converted to a live online instructor format using the video meeting platform Zoom in its next class on June 29th. Nutrition and Health Specialist Rachel Buenemann leads the sessions and reports they are a great opportunity to build muscular strength as well as increase mental focus and social connection.
“Tai Chi is a growing subject of research internationally, with benefits including arthritic pain reduction, decreased blood pressure, improved stress levels and decreased injuries from falls,” Buenemann says. “Eighty-nine percent of Phelps County participants increased flexibility and lower body strength after 8 weeks compared to a pre-class assessment. All participants improved balance as measured by timed postures.”
Buenemann reports an average of 32.4 percent of Missouri adults over 65 years fall each year, 12.9 percent of those who fall also sustain an injury, according to data published by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014. The high fall and injury rates among men and women over the age of 65 in Missouri prompted MU Extension to begin community instruction of Tai Chi last year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends Tai Chi for balance enhancement. The exercise also increases muscle strength, practices weight shifting and builds confidence of motion.
Those graduating from a previous St. James class report the class has created many positive benefits.
“I am 80 years old, and I do have arthritis, but these classes have been great,” says Sally Carpenter of St. James. “I was finding myself starting to slouch but now I stand up straight. I feel more flexible too and am able to keep mowing my five acres and work in my vegetable garden.”
Eric Johnson has been driving down from Vienna to attend the Tai Chi sessions. He says he was looking for a local opportunity after hearing positive reports from his children attending a similar course for students at Missouri S&T.
“Tai Chi is smoothing and calming,” Johnson says. “What keeps bringing me back is what Tai Chi does for you as a whole. For me, it has presented a way to stay flexible and change my focus. When I am here, I can shut everything else out. Rachel has a great technique and I have really enjoyed all that she has brought to the classes.
The cost to join the 16- week course is $50. The upcoming online sessions will start June 29 and meet at 11 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Students will need access to an internet connected device with working video camera and audio to receive the benefits of instruction.
Buenemann says the registration cost supports the sustainability of Tai Chi instruction in Missouri.
The sessions are open to all ages and ability levels. For more information call the Crawford County Extension Center at 573-775-2135. Register at https://extension2.missouri.edu/ events/tai-chi-for-arthritis.