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New classes to promote Tai Chi for everyone

More and more scientific research is testifying to the health benefits of Tai Chi. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department is embarking on an ambitious programme to enable Hong Kong people to learn this centuries-old traditional exercise more easily than before.

In the first stage of the Tai Chi Made Easy programme, starting this month, the department will offer about 200 simplified Tai Chi classes to parents and children.

The second stage, beginning in October, will extend the simplified Tai Chi classes to everyone.

A study from March to May, 2006, conducted by the of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s Department of Rehabilitation Sciences on 34 young adults (mean age 21) found that six weeks of Tai Chi training resulted in significant improvements in posture, knee muscle strength and the swiftness of reaction to external stimuli.

“It is expected that schoolchildren will be able to benefit from Tai Chi, as poor posture and lack of exercise are common problems among Hong Kong students,” an assistant professor of the department, Dr William Tsang, said.

“The strengthening of knee muscles is also important, since weakness of knee muscles may predispose adults to early degeneration of the knees,” he said.

Noting that quicker reaction time meant better balance, the Hong Kong Physiotherapy Association said a large-scale study in the United States on Tai Chi and balance training had found that the exercise could reduce elderly people’s of falling and receiving injuries by as much as 47%. It added that a study in Hong Kong in 2004 had found that just four to eight months of Tai Chi practice was enough to improve the balancing ability of elderly people to a level comparable to advanced Tai Chi learners of their age.

The Tai Chi Made Easy classes being pioneered by the department teach basic movements selected from the traditional Tai Chi schools. The traditional Ng, Yeung and Koo schools have 119, 85 and 105 movements respectively. With the assistance of the Hong Kong Tai Chi Association and the Hong Kong Chinese Martial Arts, Dragon and Lion Dance Association, the numbers have been reduced to 24, 18 and 21 for the made-easy classes.

Regardless of which school is taught, a made-easy class consists of 12 sessions of one hour each, compared with 48 sessions for the traditional Tai Chi classes currently offered by the department.

“The shorter duration makes them ideal for children, working people, housewives and beginners in general,” a department spokesman said.

“The parent-child classes will have the bonus of enrich family life by strengthening emotional ties between parents and children."

Upon completion of the course, participants are welcome to enrol in the department’s traditional Tai Chi classes. The course contents of the made-easy classes are designed to enable participants to make the transition smoothly.

The Parent-child Tai Chi Made Easy classes beginning next month are targeted at parents aged 18 or above and children aged from six to 17. Due to limited class size, a parent must enrol with one of his or her children. The children may not enrol on their own.

The made-easy classes scheduled to begin in October will be open to all people aged six or above. Enrolment is expected to begin in early September.

Class size is 30 people. Tuition fee is $54 per person, with a 50% discount for people aged below 15 or above 60, students and people with a disability.

Enrolment forms for the Parent-child Tai Chi Made Easy classes can be obtained from all District Leisure Offices and sports centres of the department or downloaded from the department’s webpage: .

Ends/Thursday, March 15, 2007

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