By Gawain Gilkey
Northeast Community Center volunteer
The benefits of being active are clear, and even moderate exercise and physical activity can significantly improve the health of adults. In fact, exercise has been proven to be the single most effective intervention in reducing falls and the risk of falling among older adults.
However, initiating an exercise regimen can be intimidating, and participants with the best of intentions may not know where to start. And the short, wet winter days in Portland can rob many people of whatever motivation they may have to get out of the house and be physically active.
Group classes are one option, but there are many who find heart-pounding, high-impact exercise classes unappealing, or whose joints won’t tolerate them. The Northeast Community Center has recently added an attractive alternative: Tai Chi: Moving for Better Balance, a group class for active older adults. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art which involves flowing movements with a focus on coordination and relaxation rather than muscular tension. The class provides a scientific-based, low impact exercise form that focuses on enhancing coordination and memory in addition to improving balance.
The class was initially designed by a group of people at the Oregon Research Institute and has been shown to decrease the risk of falling and the fear of falling among people who are 70 years of age or older. Participants have experience improvement in their balance and functional performance, and according to the Oregon Healthy Authority, those who complete a 12-week program decreased their risk of falling by more than 50 percent.
For many people, the notion of exercising alone is quite daunting. NECC’s Tai Chi class offers the additional benefit of the camaraderie that occurs when people do a physical activity as part of a group. The class provides a way to meet other people and be active with others who have similar goals.
The class is also a way to keep moving without high impact. It’s helpful for people who want to start exercising again after having not exercised. Some of the class participants have been in the midst of rehabilitation following an injury or recent surgery. A number of them reported that their balance has improved.
The class is offered on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the NECC from 10:00-10:45 a.m. The class is free for NECC members; Non-members can try their first class for free, and after that, drop-in rates apply ($10/day). Additional information is available at the Northeast Community Center, 1630 N.E. 38th Ave.; necommunitycenter.org; or (503) 284-3377.