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Getting the Word Out on Tai Chi Fundamentals for Older Adults

Tai Chi Fundamentals Instructor at MU Commissioned for Training Video

Feb. 27, 2007

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — The benefits of an unconventional wellness program at the University of Missouri-Columbia are now being broadcast across the country by Trinity Healthforce Learning, a continuing healthcare education provider, to medical professionals and patients. "Tai Chi Fundamentals: Applications for Therapeutic and Purposeful Activities," taught by Sandy Matsuda, a clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy in the MU School of Health Professions, helps older adults along the path to wellness. The simplified version of the ancient martial art is considered a good way to keep older people active in day-to-day activities and gentle enough for people recovering from an injury.

Tai Chi as a moving meditation and martial art has been practiced for centuries in China and has blossomed more recently throughout the world. Medical research has shown that regular practice of Tai Chi enhances immune function, reduces stress and anxiety, reduces joint pain and lowers blood pressure. The exercise consists of purposefully slow exercises or movements, called forms, which emphasize controlled breathing and broadening one's range of motion.

The Tai Chi Fundamentals (TCF) form is particularly suited for older adults and those in rehabilitation programs. Matsuda is one of a few in the U.S. qualified to teach TCF, a program developed by Tricia Yu, director of Tai Chi Health, and Jill Johnson, a physical therapist. Matsuda has led classes in activity and retirement centers throughout the community.

"Tai Chi fits well with the developmental stage in life older people are facing," Matsuda said. "As we get older we tend to act and move more slowly. The beauty of Tai Chi is that it helps us do so gracefully, focusing on balance, in all aspects of our lives and tapping into the healing energy we have in each moment. It's good for our emotional and physical well being."

Tai Chi has health benefits for older adults and people with chronic pain or illness, such as arthritis, lower back pain, knee replacements, Parkinson's disease or high blood pressure. The slow, low impact movements emphasize balance and form, which is good for older people who may have trouble with falls or overexertion in other forms of exercise.

"I was interested in bringing Tai Chi to the population of people who don't do well with other forms of exercise. With Tai Chi, we are mindful of balance, so there is a better chance of not being injured," Matsuda said. "The workout can even be done sitting in a chair."

Trinity Healthforce Learning, saw the benefit to Matsuda's classes and contacted her to produce a continuing education program. The program was taped at MU's TigerPlace Retirement Center and in the Adult Day Connection, where Matsuda has regularly taught Tai Chi Fundamentals.

Trinity Healthforce Learning will carry the new programs on its Health and Sciences Television Network (HSTN) and the Long Term Care Network (LTCN). The program aired 45 times during the first month and will be available through 2011. The seven installments also are available on DVD. A series of educational materials written by Matsuda go along with the broadcasts.

"The real benefit is that the films get Tai Chi on the radar screen of health professionals and patients, who can then get further training to help them gain more experience and knowledge and share it more widely with others," Matsuda said. "I did it because I wanted to get the word out."

According to Trinity Healthforce Learning Healthcare Administrator Barbara J. Crim, TWL Knowledge Group, Inc. is a leading provider of integrated learning solutions for compliance, safety, emergency preparedness, continuing education and skill development in the workplace. Since 1986, TWL Knowledge Group has met the training and education needs of more than 8 million professionals in the industrial, healthcare, fire and emergency, government, law enforcement and private security markets. The company produces and delivers education and workplace skills training content to organizations via global satellite television, the Internet and traditional media such as DVD, CD-ROM and videotape.