Maintain balance and don’t fall

Live theatre has been one of my life-long loves. Even though I love old movies, I’ll take a play anytime ahead of a movie.
So, 40 years ago when we moved to the prairie, we almost immediately bought community theatre tickets in a nearby city. With our friends Bob and Vernette, we saw lots of wonderful plays—comedies, tragedies, romances, old classics, and avant-garde ones.
Now I wish I had saved all the programs because I can’t remember nearly every play we saw. But I do remember what happened after one play—even though I can’t recall the name of the show.
As the theatre emptied out, we walked to our car with a crowd of people. All of a sudden, I tripped on the sidewalk, lost my balance, and fell flat on my face.
I turned over and a woman whom I didn’t know was beside me on the sidewalk asking if I was hurt. I assured her that I was OK. I was only stunned and had a mouth full of gravel to spit out.
When I got up and once again had my wits about me, I sadly found that what I thought was gravel was my two front teeth.
Later, my husband and I returned to the site of the fall and discovered there was a variation of one-and-a-half inches from one sidewalk block to the next. No wonder I tripped!
That was 20 years ago. I had wonderful healthy bones at the time and, fortunately, didn’t break anything. Now, 20 years later, I’m not sure what would happen with such a severe fall.
Possibly, I would become a statistic.
“Body & Soul,” a PBS series on mind, body, and spirit, reported that every year 30 percent of people 65 and older fall. Those falls result in more than 300,000 hip fractures annually.
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) says that every year falls cost the U.S. economy an estimated $12 billion. Falls also represent the largest cause of death among the elderly.
That’s why it is very important to maintain balance and avoid falling!
In a program sponsored by NIA, Steven Wolf and colleagues at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta found that people who took part in a 15-week Tai Chi program reduced their risk of falling by 47.5 percent.
There are many other studies that corroborate Wolf’s findings.
Tai Chi (pronounced tie-jee) is an ancient Chinese routine of slow dance-like exercises designed to improve balance and muscle tone. It has become very popular in the United States and is performed in parks, community centres, and senior citizen centres.
Researchers say Tai Chi is appropriate for people in their 80s and 90s, and balance isn’t the only thing that it helps with. Tai Chi also improves posture, co-ordination, flexibility, strength, circulation, and breathing.
It is used as physical therapy after an injury and some studies say it can help lower blood pressure and heart rate. Researchers also say it helps prevent osteoporosis and ease arthritis pain.
How can one exercise do so much? It seems like a modern miracle.
So, if you have balance problems and feel at risk of falling, why not find a Tai Chi class in your town or city and get started today.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at or visit

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