ALTUS, OK (KSWO) -The Oklahoma Department of Health is offering a two-day martial arts workshop to Altus residents to help lower the risk of falls and injuries in the community. Instructors are teaching the art of Tai Chi, which improves a person's stability, balance and mobility, to prevent injuries from falls, which are a growing public health problem in Oklahoma, and nationwide. The department is able to offer these classes for free because of a federal grant that is given to them from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. After this workshop, the participants will be certified to lead Tai Chi classes and spread the skill throughout their area.
When you think of Tai Chi, it's not like most martial arts classes. It can be compared to yoga because you're focusing on relaxing, breathing, and doing body weight exercises to strengthen your legs, arms and ankles. John Kidwell, a second time participant in the Tai Chi workshop says after witnessing many of his elderly friends fall and severely hurt themselves, he decided he wanted to be certified to lead his own class. With the experience he's getting today of strengthening his core, mobility in his legs and arms, he says he's ready to take on the challenge and teach others ways prevent accidents in the future.
"The more interaction we have as a community, the better life it will be for all of us," said Kidwell.
Instructor Avy Redus says there's only around 300 certified Tia Chi teachers across the state and she's hoping to add more to that list. She says seeing and hearing peoples success stories is what makes her time of traveling all over to different cities worthwhile.
"Individuals who used to use a walker are now are walking on their own. We've heard about people having their pain reduced as a result of participating in the program. The research supports and evidence shows it can reduce falls up to 55% and so our goal is to spread that across the state as much as possible," said Redus.
Kidwell says even though he still considers himself a beginner, he's seen a drastic change in his coordination by performing exercises daily such as the 'Single whip' and the 'Wild Horses Mane' where you shift your body weight and your arms to one side. He says he is able to catch himself when he feels like he might fall.
"It's the balance aspect of it. Being able to put your weight on one foot and even if you don't completely lift the other foot off the ground, at least you have it predominately on one side and it makes you feel more comfortable when you're out of balance or you start to get there," said Kidwell.
Tai Chi is also a good way to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is something that can be practiced as much or as little as you want. Kidwell says he's never felt or looked better, and his doctor seemed to agree.
"The doctor on my last visit said 'don't come back for a year, so I thought that was a pretty good report," said Kidwell.