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Oklahoma students use tai chi exercises to help seniors avoid falling

University of Central Oklahoma students are using tai chi exercises as an exercise regimen to help senior citizens improve their strength and balance.
BY JIM KILLACKEY Published: April 25, 2013

Using creative exercises to improve strength and balance, University of Central Oklahoma students are helping senior citizens avoid painful and often crippling falls.

“Since we are working with our older adults, the tai chi movements we teach focus on increasing balance through proper foot placement and good posture,” said UCO student Cody Sodowsky, 22. “Furthermore, the class really has provided us the opportunity to interact and learn from our participants about their own work experiences, history and life.”

Tai chi helps increase flexibility and has a unique cross-generational aspect, Sodowsky said after a class in Edmond.

It's not always possible for seniors “to find appropriate exercises that are safe and easy on the joints,” said Gwen Wright, owner of Ntouch Medical Massage and Spa in Edmond. The clinic offers free exercise classes to seniors that often are taught by students from UCO's Kinesiology Department.

“Likewise, it's not always easy for many graduating college students to find real-world situations to train for their careers before graduation,” Wright said. “Classes taught by graduating students offer an avenue for students to gain valuable training and interaction with citizens outside of the university in a business environment.”

Because tai chi puts minimal stress on the muscles and joints and is low impact, it's used by people who have health restrictions that limit other forms of exercise.

UCO students offer it as part of a healthy aging class.

Class member Ted Parrish, 67, said, “It started as a favor for the students, but after the first class, I realized it could be a tool to help restore my balance after I was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy,” a vision problem.

Linda Wiley also has attended the spring session.

“It has been a wonderful experience that goes way beyond the physical and mental benefits. It is an exercise that you can practice solo or in groups, and use indoors or outdoors.

“You can even practice the soothing mind-body concepts without performing the actual movements when you are in a stressful situation, such as a traffic jam or a tense work meeting, for instance,” Wiley said.

Falling not normal

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