UIHC offers Tai Chi classes

UIHC is offering modified Tai Chi classes for older individuals. The program is proven to prevent and reduce the chance of repeated falls for the elderly.


Katie Goodale

Albert Persson teaches a Tai Chi class in UI Health Care in Coralville on Wednesday Sept. 25, 2019. Persson began teaching Tai Chi after notices the benefits on his joints.

Eleanor Hildebrandt, News Reporter

With a new spin on traditional exercise, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is offering Tai Chi classes at its Iowa River landing facility twice every week to assist with fall prevention for adults over 65. 

UIHC Injury Prevention Coordinator Kathleen Lee played a big part in the creation and set up of the Tai Chi program. She said classes occur over the course of eight weeks and are modified to focus on ankle and knee movements without being too aggressive on the joints. 

“Modified Tai Chi forms have been shown to reduce falls significantly,” she said. “This particular program reduces around 40 percent of all falls as well as reduces repeated falls. [It’s] physically accessible to older adults, especially those with arthritis, because it doesn’t have some athletic components like deep knee bending.”

Lee added the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Arthritis Foundation recommend the program for fall prevention. She added there is an online attachment to the program allowing participants to practice Tai Chi in their homes. 

Class instructor Albert Persson was a former student of Tai Chi and a retired UIHC nurse. He trained to teach the class after almost immediately recognizing the benefits of Tai Chi.

“My wife said I wasn’t shuffling as much after I took a class,” he said. “I became acquainted with the literature and research on these techniques from New Zealand and Australia, and I knew if I trained to be an instructor I would do it more.” 

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Dean Koster, a participant with severe arthritis, agreed that results of taking Tai Chi were immediate. He said he has increased stability and balance since beginning classes four weeks ago, but admitted Tai Chi is indeed difficult.

“I’ve seen a significant strengthening in my knee and am hoping that my chronic arthritis will lessen as I improve my muscle strength,” he said. “This class is very interesting. You have to move very slow. I catch myself going too fast often, and it’s hard to get the speed down.” 

UIHC piloted Tai Chi last winter but the class has grown significantly since then. Persson said the average amount of participants in the class ranges from 11 to 13 on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. 

Persson modifies the class for each of his students, demonstrating new techniques from multiple angles in order to accommodate each individual. Not only does he know everyone’s name in the class, he said, but he also enjoys what he teaches.

“We’re teaching Yang style, and I like the move ‘Catching the Flow,’” he said. “It helps to actually find a flow between the movements through the form. It strengthens balance and assists arthritis specifically.” 

Koster added that the participants see benefits quickly and enjoy it thoroughly. 

“The benefits of the class are clear and quick,” said Koster. “I would strongly recommend taking this class. It is absolutely beneficial to anyone.”