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MS and Tai Chi

By Matt Cavallo

In a previous article, I wrote about adaptive exercises and MS. These exercises included aquatic exercises, yoga, and accessible bike riding. Each of these exercises can be adapted to provide a low-impact workout for a person living with MS.

As an aside, it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to stay active with MS. Movement is the key, even if you are limited in doing so. Exercise has been shown to help with strength, mobility, fatigue and depression. Exercise also has can help develop a positive attitude and make you more likely to participate in group activities. These positive attributes of exercise can really help a patient overcome some of the isolating symptoms of MS.

As someone living with MS, I am always trying to find something new and interesting that may be beneficial to those of us living with the disease. In this installment, we will learn how an ancient art may provide therapeutic healing to those of us living with MS today.

Tai chi, an ancient Chinese tradition that was originally a form of self-defense, has been transformed into a form of exercise that is considered good for people of all ages and fitness levels. Tai Chi is a series of slow movements combined with deep breathing.

Tai Chi is considered to be low impact, meaning that it does not put a lot of stress on the muscles. If you have MS and have tried yoga, but struggle to hold some of the poses, then you may want to try Tai Chi. Much like adaptive yoga, adaptive Tai Chi can be done either standing or sitting.

Tai Chi is thought to have many health benefits for people living with MS, including:

• Improved strength and balance
• Increased energy and mood
• Decreased stress, anxiety and depression

To get started in Tai Chi, it is recommended that you take a class. There are videos available, but working one-on-one with an instructor will give you a great head start. Instructors can also provide safe modifications for your ability level. If you start a Tai Chi class, meet with the instructor ahead of time. Let the instructor know of any physical limitations that you may have with MS, like balance issues.

If your instructor learns your limitations, they will ensure that they teach you a routine that is safe, yet gives you the benefit of the workout. Then, over time, you may feel yourself becoming stronger and be able to take on more of a routine with less modifications.

If you have MS and have struggled in other forms of exercise, it may be time to try Tai Chi. The health benefits associated with the ancient form of low-impact movements can help you with your battle against MS, but make sure that you let your instructor know of any limitations you may have. The key to winning the battle against MS is to stay moving which is exactly what the ancient art of Tai Chi can help you achieve.