The HeART of Tai Chi is a grant-funded program from Advancing Health Equity, Addressing Disparities (AHEAD AZ) as part of the University of Arizona Center for Rural Health program funded through the AZ Department of Health Services (ADHS)-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Friends of the Miami Memorial Library and Library Manager Sue Pontel applied for the grant. It is also supported with help from the United Fund of Globe-Miami, in the form of a programming assistant.
The program consists of a free, twice weekly Tai Chi class (Tues./Thur. at 4 p.m.) in the Miami Memorial Library, led by Tai Chi expert Gus Park. The program began on January 10 and will run through April 27, approximately 16 weeks. The program is meant to target individuals with high blood pressure, seniors wanting to improve their health and any other individuals seeking to improve their well-being (New Year’s resolutions). While other agencies in the community offer exercise experiences, Tai Chi is a gentle exercise that creates harmony between mind and body. This artform makes it more accessible to those who may be unable to participate in other forms of exercise, therefore all fitness levels are welcome. Studies show that consistent practice of Tai Chi helps to lower blood pressure. By offering the program in the library, it helps engage the community and reduce isolation as individuals practice together.
Participants in the program sign in for attendance, fill out a waiver (only needs to be done once) and then visit a blood pressure station set up in the library, where participants record their blood pressure at the start of each class to keep a weekly record. Some participants have already recorded a drop in blood pressure from the first Tai Chi class to the second!
The grant amount was $5,000, and that helped purchase the blood pressure cuffs as well as paying for the instructor. Gus Park leads the class through Tai Chi but he also provides resources and gives other information for participants to practice at home. So far attendance is consistent with roughly 10 participants.
The heart of the program is to improve heart health through the use of the artform, Tai Chi, thus the name “The HeART of Tai Chi.”