PORTLAND, Maine — One in four adults have arthritis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Because of that, the CDC recently gave 27 parks and recreation departments across the country a grant to find ways to help community members improve arthritis pain, Portland being one of them. The city's parks and recreation department started a new program called 'Tai Chi for Arthritis.'
"We all have a common purpose. We are all here for the same idea, because as we get older, diminish movements, and whatever else you have, you come to some levels of risk of falling and losing strength," said instructor Carlos Collado to the crown on the first class.
The goal of this program is for people to gain strength, flexibility, balance, and to continue practicing what they learned moving forward in their day-to-day.
"And that's so important for folks who suffer from arthritis, and have limited motions and movements, and fall prevention," Collado added.
Carlos teaches the classes alongside his wife Liz Collado. Both have practiced and taught Tai Chi for decades. The couple said Tai Chi is all about fluid movements.
The practice is an ancient form of Chinese martial arts.
"It helps to strengthen their ligaments, their muscles, their joints. They figure out how to move things, how to relax, ease tension," Collado said.
For Portland resident and participant Katherine Bourque, it's a practice that will allow her to pace herself.
"I had just finished doing the academic portion of a harp therapy course, and I needed to put in time to do public practice. And I get very high anxiety, and it's sort of stopping me from getting my certification. So, I thought this would be a good way to slow down, stop, and rest my anxiety," Bourque said. "And hopefully whenever I am feeling anxious or too stressed, I can just take a few moments and do a few practices to get back to normal."
"There is no reason not to do it. I mean, really, you can do it standing, sitting, or lying down, so as far as I'm concerned there is no barrier big enough that would prevent you from advancing and benefitting," Collado said.
The grant received is part of the SHAPR award, provided by the National Recreation and Park Association with funding support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Six in 10 adults in the United States suffer from one or more chronic conditions, like arthritis, including people who live right here in Portland,” said Ethan Hipple, director of the Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department. “This grant from NRPA and the CDC allows us to help the older adults in our community and adds a new way for Portland residents to achieve their health and wellness goals.”
The new program is capped for the next eight weeks, but if you would like to see some other class options being offered by the Portland Parks and Rec Department, click here.
City leaders also say that the website is the best place to keep an eye out for other future Tai Chi program offerings.