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Tai Chi: Another way to fitness and health

Friday, May 16, 2003

(Photo)
Linda Messmer photo

Tai Chi students Elizabeth Evans, (left, back), Ward Meyers and Loretta Pierce, with instructor Fern Reitmeyer, (front) demonstrate some Tai Chi moves that improve body strength and flexibility.

By LINDA MESSMER

Times Staff Writer

Tai Chi, the Chinese discipline that promotes fitness and health, is available at the Clay County YMCA. Instructor Fern Reitmeyer offers the hour long classes, free to all YMCA members, Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 10:15 a.m.

"Tai Chi is a series of controlled movements that improve balance, flexibility, promotes relaxation, increases circulation and may give relief of chronic joint pain," said Reitmeyer. "By practicing Tai Chi we can lower risk of falls, fractures and other injuries."

Reitmeyer started taking Tai Chi lessons seven years ago from a Chinese lady through Union Hospital's Fitness Center.

"My parents had a lot of physical problems with aging," the 80-year-old instructor continued. "I felt like I would inherit those problems and wanted to prevent it. I was starting to have a balance problem."

The class, which has been available for a year, has 10-12 regular students.

"I never want to miss it," said the oldest member, 84-year-old Elizabeth Evans. "I can come to class feeling rather tired and stiff. And when I'm done with class, I feel so much better."

Tai Chi is for all ages. Reitmeyer said she's had students in their 20s and 30s. And children are welcome.

Loretta Pierce explained her devotion to the discipline. "I was having pain in my right upper leg, in the groin area," she said. "I thought it was due to having a heart catheterization tube inserted there. But my doctor told me it was from a compressed nerve due to a bulging disc in my back.

"He started writing prescriptions for physical therapy three times a week and muscle relaxants. When I casually mentioned that I was taking a Tai Chi class," Pierce continued, "the doctor's face lit up and he stopped writing.

"He said to do all of the Tai Chi I could. He wants me to exercise but without the pounding you get from aerobics. It's just been a few weeks. I still have the pain but I have more mobility. It'll be a life long problem but Tai Chi will keep me more agile."

Tai Chi is done to Oriental music in the class. "It can be done with any kind of music," Reitmeyer said. "It's very slow, as it should be, and you have to hold the pose. It improves strength so much."

Retired Clay Community Schools teacher, Arlene Meyers attends the classes with her husband Ward.

"We spent a couple months in China in 1988 and 2001," she said. "We like all things Chinese. Tai Chi is just a good overall conditioning exercise program and it makes me feel good."



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