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Older New Zealanders Embrace Tai Chi

25 APRIL 2008

Older New Zealanders Embrace Tai Chi – 25,000 Have Moved And Stepped Their Way Through Acc Tai Chi Course

As New Zealand Tai Chi practitioners step out to celebrate World Tai Chi Day tomorrow (Saturday April 26), ACC is proud to announce that 25,000 people have completed its modified Tai Chi courses.

Tai Chi is an art form, a method of self defence, exercise and relaxation technique that involves a series of gentle movements performed in what appears to be slow motion.

Since 1998 ACC has funded classes of Tai Chi that have been modified to be suitable for older New Zealanders who are particularly vulnerable to injuring themselves in a slip, trip or fall.

``Because Tai Chi’s gentle, fluid movements are good for maintaining the mobility and flexibility of the musculo-skeletal system, it is very effective in preventing falls,’’ said ACC’s Tai Chi programme manager Ann Rose. ``Tai Chi is great at improving fitness, increasing muscular strength, and improving balance and flexibility. It also gives older people more confidence and reduces their fear of falling.’’

Tai Chi is also known to be therapeutic for those with arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory and other chronic diseases, as well as having a positive effect on immunity, mental illness, depression, and stress.

``It’s just a fantastic all-round exercise. Because people can start doing it while sitting down it’s great for all fitness and strength levels, but many people find they can stand up and exercise quite soon. People can do Tai Chi at their own comfort level and progress at their own rate. Having had 25,000 older New Zealanders complete the course is a fantastic result, especially because we know that these people will have less chance of falling if they keep up their Tai Chi,’’ Ann Rose said.

Falls are a serious risk for older New Zealanders. In the 12 months to 1 March 2008, there were 6423 new falls claims in the 65+ age group, at a cost $10.9 million.

This does not include meeting the ongoing costs of fall injuries that happened earlier, nor can it encapsulate the loss of confidence, health and even life that can follow a fall.

To qualify for ACC course funding, participants must be aged 65 years and over (55 years and over if Maori or Pacific people), live in the community and have had a fall in the previous year, or be deemed at risk of falling by a registered health professional. This year, ACC will fund 6620 New Zealanders to attend the twice weekly, 20-week Tai Chi course.


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