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Washington Women’s Center Soon to Offer Tai Chi Classes

October 06, 2011

And Remember, Think Pink Is Next Thursday

For women in particular, the month of October is a great time to make sure that your health is on track, starting with the annual “Think Pink: Quilting Together a Better Life” event at the Washington Women’s Center next Thursday.

The special event will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 13 in the Tent Atrium at Washington West, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Attendees are invited to wear pink and join in an evening of educational lectures, booths, health screenings and fun activities.

The push for better health doesn’t end with Think Pink, though, according to Women’s Center Clinical Coordinator Kathy Hesser, R.N., because the following week, beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 18, the center’s newest exercise program will begin.

“This is the official Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi Program®, which utilizes six basic core movements, six advanced extension movements and directional changes to add challenge,” explains Hesser. “These movements were all examined by the Arthritis Foundation and Dr. Paul Lam, a tai chi expert and family physician, for safety and effectiveness. The movements are based on the Sun style of tai chi that is very gentle, with no deep movements that can be done both standing and in a chair.

“The program is suitable for every fitness level.”

The Washington Women’s Center already offers several gentle yoga classes, as well as the traditional Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, and Hesser says offering the tai chi class is a natural extension of these programs, which encourage better health for women of all levels of health and fitness.

“The new tai chi program is very complementary to what we’re already doing,” she says. “This is different than yoga, and it’s different from the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program. Offering the combination of the three different programs is very useful. For instance if people want to start slow, they can start with tai chi. Particularly if they’re healing from a surgery or their range of motion is very limited, this is a wonderful place to begin. Then, moving forward, we recommend they choose a combination of two to three classes per week for maximum benefits.”

Building strength and balance

Tai chi is unique in that offers a greater emphasis on improving balance than the traditional Arthritis Foundation exercise class, according to Hesser.

“Another element of Tai chi that’s a little different than the land classes is that it focuses on balance and core muscle strength,” she says. “For people who are at risk for falls, this class can help them with that.”

The program also focuses on the concept of “mindful” movement, which Hesser says is beneficial to those with arthritis.

“Tai chi really forms a mind/body connection, and it’s been shown to be excellent for the elderly because it has them focus on each extremity and each movement—this hand goes here and this one there. All movements are done smoothly, and it’s a very good exercise approach for arthritis because you never over extend your joints.”

The new classes will be one-hour long, beginning with a warm-up specified to tai chi, moving on to the program’s core movements and ending with a proper cool-down.

“It’s a very quiet, yet energizing experience and you tend to focus really inward on yourself,” Hesser says. “If you come into the classroom and you’re stressed, you’re really going to leave those thoughts behind when you start tai chi.”

The center chose to begin offering tai chi classes after Hesser received several requests from women who already enjoyed other exercise programs through the Women’s Center.

“I love our Arthritis Foundation-affiliated programs because the foundation works on them for at least two or three years and shows through evidence-based data that they will be safe and improve people’s function,” she says. “We will be offering two morning classes for women right now and if the classes are really popular, we may add a co-ed class in the evening.”

Hesser points out that right now there aren’t a lot of options in the community for women who want to take tai chi classes.

“There are ones in the park and in some senior homes, but mostly they’re not for the general person,” she says. “You can buy a DVD, but most people say they buy the DVD and then never play it because it’s not fun to do it by themselves.”

The fees for exercise programs like yoga and arthritis foundation exercise classes at the Women’s Center are nominal and offer a level of quality that is hard to find elsewhere, according to Hesser. And other benefits of the Women’s Center exercise programs are numerous.

“We run quality programs that offer smaller classes and excellent instructors. Plus, people feel comfortable in this environment. It’s not competitive like a gym and they feel totally at ease with themselves. Most of the women who take our classes feel more confident and get a lot out of them.”

Think Pink and beyond

To register for the Think Pink event or to find out more, go to www.whhs.com and click on the “Think Pink” box on the right-hand side of the site. If you would like to register for the upcoming Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi Program® at the Washington Women’s Center, call (510) 608-1301.

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