I have a history of falls in unusual places. I’ve fallen going upstairs. I’ve fallen going downstairs. I’ve fallen just standing around. Once I fell into the Dairy Case at the supermarket, displacing several gallons of milk and completely demolishing 13 gallons of ice cream. I’ve accepted these unexpected spills as a fact of my life but when I spent a recent holiday in the Emergency Room, I realized that what I’ve learned from this experience, is that I really don’t want it to happen again. Ever. Not when falls have become one of the top causes of death for Americans 65 or older. nor when 338,000 adults, mainly those older than 65, fall and fracture their hip each year and only half are ever able to live independently again, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One reason for the swift rise in fatalities from falls is that as we live longer, we become more frail so core strengthening exercise is very important in fall prevention. An Emery University study shows that people who practice Tai Chi, for instance, are 50% less likely to fall. Tai Chi improves balance and core strength and because of that, I’m now taking the Beginners Class in Tai Chi at the Morgan Family Y. For the eighth time. The trouble is that I’m terrible at it. There are 37 separate postures in the Yang Short Form, Well, there might only be 34 or 35. Doesn’t matter as it has become apparent that it will be my life work to master Ward Off Right. Catch the Sparrow’s Tail is out of the question altogether. I’ll never graduate from Tai Chi kindergarten. The other thirty-five postures must fend for themselves. My instructor, Tai Chi Steve says,
“Perseverance is the key. Just keep trying. It’s not a race.”, He says lots of annoying things like that. But imagine my surprise at a recent Physical Therapy evaluation when I found that although my Tai Chi form hasn’t improved much, my strength has risen incredibly. When I started Tai Chi, four years ago, I was evaluated as weaker than the average woman my age, whoever the poor thing may be. Today, I’m rated as stronger than that fictional average. So the important thing is don’t give up. As Tai Chi Steve and the Inscrutable Gary say, “Perseverance really is the key.” So here I go again, relax, all weight on the right foot, and definitely, no matter what, don’t fall over.
Here’s what the Harvard Medical School Newsletter says about Tai Chi:http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Womens_Health_Watch/2009/May/The-health-benefits-of-tai-chi