Aging with Strength
Strength comes in all shapes, sizes and levels. Strength comes in numbers. Strength comes with age. Yes, you read that right. You can choose to stay steady and self-confident through the years with fun fitness classes. Let us explain how.
Senior Martial Arts
Tai chi, which originated in China, is commonly referred to as a gentle martial art.
Initially, tai chi was practiced as a fighting form, emphasizing strength, balance, flexibility and speed. Through time it has evolved into a soft, slow and gentle form of exercise that can be practiced by people of all ages.
“In China, tai chi is most popular among the seniors, around ages 50 and older, especially after they retire,” explains 44-year-old Danni Triandafils.
Triandafils was born and raised in China, and moved to America when she was 30. A graduate of a medical school in China, she practices acupuncture in Titusville. She also teaches tai chi at Parrish Health & Fitness Center.
“My grandpa was the first one I remember seeing practice tai chi,” Triandafils recalls. “He would get up at 5 a.m. and practice tai chi before work.”
In China, tai chi is practiced mostly in community parks, Triandafils explains. Part of its popularity is convenience. “You don’t need any special clothes or space,” she says.
“Just comfortable shoes and not much space. In tai chi, the emphasis is balance—balancing the quiet, calm aspects with the loud, fast aspects.” This is commonly referred to as yin yang.
Jan’s Story: Taking Control
Jan Craig explains that the closer she and her husband, John, got to retirement, the stronger their desire for wellness grew. Their first step was to quit smoking, which they did in 2011.
They also decided to get moving. “We were sedentary and we knew it,” Jan explains. “When we retired, we had the time to get healthy, and we wanted to do it.”
So the pair joined Parrish Health & Fitness Center. As they perused the menu of group fitness options, John and Jan found two classes that caught their interest: tai chi and Zumba Gold.
Fitness Yin Yang
Talk about balance! Zumba and tai chi are certainly yin yang.
Zumba Gold targets baby boomers and beginners, with low-impact, highly energizing, Latin-inspired dance movements. Before Zumba Gold, John says that he couldn’t get his feet off the floor, let alone swivel his hips and salsa. Now, he has lots more zest in his step.
And tai chi has given Jan the assurance she needed after knee surgery. “Now I can actually get down on the floor and play with my grandsons,” she says. “Tai chi has helped my balance, my strength and my self-confidence. I’ve even done a three-mile race/walk, and I have a 5K coming up. Even my asthma is getting better as I lose weight and focus on fitness.”
For John, tai chi brings tranquility. “While I’m doing tai chi, I can focus on something other than the hustle and bustle of the day and find peace and relaxation,” he explains. “We even practice it on the beach and impress everyone else there. With tai chi, I’m challenging all my muscles, brain included.”
Smell the Roses, Blow Out the Candles
Breathing is essential. Experts estimate that proper breathing helps your body eliminate toxins 15 times faster than poor, shallow breathing. Yet most of us are breathing incorrectly. Shirley Roberts thought proper breathing was more than just a good idea.
“I live on the second floor,” the octogenarian says. “I’ve always been athletic, but my balance was never good. Now that I’m older, that’s a little scary. But tai chi is teaching me to breathe deeply. It’s actually a little harder than my weight training because I have to concentrate, so it challenges my brain, too.”
The key to proper breathing is to inhale deeply through your nose as your belly expands and fills with oxygen. Then, deeply exhale through your mouth or nose as your belly contracts and releases carbon dioxide.
Thanks to tai chi and its emphasis on balance and proper breathing, Roberts has increased her duration on cardiovascular equipment from 10 to 15 minutes. “Now,” she says, “I am fine at 15 minutes on both the stationary bike and treadmill.”
Make Your Next Move
You are in the driver’s seat of your life, and your thoughts affect your actions. If you are ready to transform your health, Parrish Health & Fitness Center is ready to help you.
Tai Chi I, Tai Chi II and Tai Chi Long Form classes are available at Parrish Health & Fitness Center. Matter of Balance is an eight-week workshop for adults ages 60 and older who are concerned about falling and interested in improving balance, flexibility and strength. Visit parrishhealthandfitness.com.