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Washington Women's Center Offers a Variety of Exercise Classes

January 10, 2014

Consider Taking a Yoga or Tai Chi Class This New Year

The month of January is a great time to make sure that your health is on track. If you or someone you know is looking for a new exercise routine, the Washington Women’s Center offers several different exercise programs that can help improve your balance, strength and make you feel good.

Tai Chi is an ancient practice proven to reduce pain and improve your mental and physical wellness. The Washington Women’s Center tai chi exercise program uses gentle Sun style routines for every fitness level. The six class session meets every Thursday from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
“Our Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi Program utilizes six basic core movements, six advanced extension movements and directional changes to add challenge," explains Laura Constantine, RN, Women’s Center Coordinator. "These movements were all examined by the Arthritis Foundation and Dr. Paul Lam, a tai chi expert and family physician, for safety and effectiveness.”

The Washington Women's Center offers several gentle yoga classes, as well as the traditional Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program, and Constantine says offering the tai chi class is a natural extension of these programs, which encourage better health for women of all levels of health and fitness.

"The tai chi program is very complementary to what we're already doing," she says. "This is different than yoga, and it's different from the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program. Offering the combination of the three different programs is very useful. For instance if people want to start slow, they can start with tai chi. Particularly if they're healing from a surgery or their range of motion is very limited, this is a wonderful place to begin. Then, moving forward, we recommend they choose a combination of two to three classes per week for maximum benefits."

Building strength and balance

Tai chi is unique in that offers a greater emphasis on improving balance than the traditional Arthritis Foundation exercise class, according to Constantine.

"Another element of Tai chi that's a little different than the land classes is that it focuses on balance and core muscle strength," she says. "For people who are at risk for falls, this class can help them with that."

The program also focuses on the concept of "mindful" movement, which Constantine says is beneficial to those with arthritis.

"Tai chi really forms a mind/body connection, and it's been shown to be excellent for the elderly because it has them focus on each extremity and each movement-this hand goes here and this one there. All movements are done smoothly, and it's a very good exercise approach for arthritis because you never over extend your joints."

The classes begin with a warm-up specified to tai chi, moving on to the program's core movements and ending with a proper cool-down.

"It's a very quiet, yet energizing experience and you tend to focus really inward on yourself," Constantine says. "If you come into the classroom and you're stressed, you're really going to leave those thoughts behind when you start tai chi."

The center chose to begin offering tai chi classes two years ago after receiving several requests from women who already enjoyed other exercise programs through the Women's Center.

"I love our Arthritis Foundation-affiliated programs because the foundation works on them for at least two or three years and shows through evidence-based data that they will be safe and improve people's function," she says.
Constantine points out that right now there aren't a lot of options in the community for women who want to take tai chi classes.

"There are classes in the park and in some senior homes, but mostly they're not for the general person," she says. "You can buy a DVD, but most people say they buy the DVD and then never play it because it's not fun to do it by themselves."

The fees for exercise programs like yoga and arthritis foundation exercise classes at the Women's Center are nominal and offer a level of quality that is hard to find elsewhere, according to Constantine. And other benefits of the Women's Center exercise programs are numerous.

"We run quality programs that offer smaller classes and excellent instructors. Plus, people feel comfortable in this environment. It's not competitive like a gym and they feel totally at ease with themselves. Most of the women who take our classes feel more confident and get a lot out of them."

Register for a Class Today

To learn more about the wide variety of exercise and wellness programs at the Washington Women’s Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter. To register for a tai chi or yoga class, please call (510) 608-1301.

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