Messiah Senior Center Manager Jane Thompson said tai chi is a great way for older adults to increase their balance and strength.
Thompson teaches tai chi classes from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. every Friday at the center, 324 Howard St., South Williamsport.
She said that tai chi, also known as tai chi chuan, is best suited for adults 50 years and older.
"We do a Sun style and it's done to increase balance and to increase strength, which is also used for relaxation," Thompson said.
Tai chi is an "internal form" of martial arts that involves no contact with other people, in contrast to external forms, such as kung fu and tae kwon do, Thompson said. "It's not aerobic in nature, but it is strengthening in nature."
Thompson said that she has had students who thought they wouldn't get much exercise out of it because of its slow and graceful movements.
According to the Calorie Control Council, for an hour of tai chi for an average person weighing between 130 and 180 pounds, people can expect to burn anywhere from about 230 to 325 calories.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine stated on its website that about 2.3 million adults practice tai chi in the United States, usually by themselves or in groups.
In China, many people practice tai chi before going to work, sometimes at nearby parks, by concentrating with deep breathing and "putting aside distracting thoughts."
People practice the exercise to improve muscle strength, coordination, flexibility, and besides the improvement of balance, to decrease the risk of falls, especially in senior citizens, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Researchers there also found that tai chi eases pain and stiffness in people suffering who have osteoarthritis.
Thompson is certified through the National Arthritis Foundation and she has been teaching "safe forms" of tai chi in her two- to six-person classes for about four years.
She said that she accommodates seniors with balancing difficulties by providing a chair for better control, which she also said strengthens a person's core.
Classes are usually taught in six- to eight-week cycles to slowly strengthen and improve balance, movement in the joints and range of motion.
Thompson's free tai chi classes do not require registration and the next set of classes begins May 7.
Tai chi also is conducted at other local senior centers in Mill Hall and Jersey Shore.
For more information about tai chi, call Thompson at 327-5489 or stop by the center.