Occupational Therapy Students Train For Online Tai Chi Classes

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How can a person with arthritis safely exercise? Faculty and students in Dominican University of California’s Occupational Therapy Department say that practicing tai chi is an effective way to improve strength and balance while increasing mobility without leading to more arthritic pain.

Dr. Kitsum Li, OT program director and associate professor in the School of Health and Natural Sciences, has received a grant from Marin County Health and Human Services (HHS) and Aging and Adult Services to partner with Age Friendly Sausalito to offer free online tai chi classes for adults age 60 and older residing in Marin County.

The 16-session online courses via Zoom begin once a week on Saturday morning, December 12, with afternoon sessions two times a week on Mondays and Wednesdays starting on December 14, and Tuesdays and Thursdays starting on December 15. Two more classes are scheduled to begin in January 2021.


This fall, Li and her occupational therapy students, along with two instructors from Age Friendly Sausalito, were certified as Tai Chi for Arthritis (TCA) and Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention (TCAFP) instructors. The training and the course offerings are the result of a grant Dominican and Age Friendly Sausalito received from Marin HHS through funding from the Older Americans Act.

“Scientific studies have shown that tai chi relieves pain and stiffness, improves physical function and range of motion, and lowers stress and blood pressure,” Li says. “Evidence based research demonstrates the TCA program is effective in building strength, reducing pain, and enhancing relaxation,” Li says.

The TCA and the TCAFP programs were created by Dr. Paul Lam in Australia. It is now endorsed by many arthritis foundations worldwide – including the CDC, the National Council on Aging, and the Administration on Aging as one of their highest level evidence based programs for health promotion and disease prevention.

“Both the Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Arthritis Fall Prevention courses are based on the Sun style of tai chi. Sun style tai chi uses gentle, flowing movements to increase muscular strength, protect joints, and improve balance and flexibility along with improved heart/lung activity,” says Robin Malby, Master trainer for TCA and TCAFP. “Dr. Paul Lam, together with his team, further modified the Sun style of tai chi, eliminating all high risk moves to ensure participants’ safety. The current TCA and TCAFP can be done sitting and standing, appropriate for individuals with arthritis.”

“For the past 10 years, evidence based research demonstrates that the TCAFP program is also effective in building strength, balance, reducing pain and falls. In fact, in one of the studies they found that recurring falls were reduced by nearly 70 percent for participants in the TCAFP program,” Li says. “Participants reported developing better balance, greater confidence in movement and an improved quality of life.”

For more information, contact agefriendlysausalito@gmail.com or visit http://www.sausalito.gov/virtualrec. Or email Dr. Li at kitsum.li@dominican.edu or call (415) 458-3753.

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