Laurels therapist brings health benefits of tai chi to community

Written by Healthy Living News. Posted in Our Community

The therapy team at The Laurels of Toledo stands ready to help area residents get back to independent living and the highest possible degree of function following injury, surgery, or illness. But these dedicated rehab professionals aren’t just poised to react when someone needs their services. They also take innovative programming out to the community for the purpose of prevention—to teach people ways to avoid winding up in rehab.


One such program is an introduction to the ancient Chinese tradition of tai chi, which Laurels physical therapy assistant Matt Snyder presented to a group of interested seniors at Genesis Village on Tuesday, September 17. Snyder, who is certified in Tai Chi for Rehabilitation, recognized that this discipline could be of tremendous benefit to rehab clients while attending a seminar put on by the Tai Chi for Health Institute. He then brought what he learned back to The Laurels, where, if appropriate for the client, he incorporates elements of tai chi into his therapy programs along with more recent, cutting-edge techniques and modalities, such as the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill.

Taking this program beyond The Laurels and out to community senior centers can pay huge dividends by preventing falls—the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults according to the National Council on Aging. What do tai chi and fall prevention have to do with one another? “Tai chi promotes stability and coordination by slowing each movement down to its component parts. It also emphasizes lateral movement and rotation, as well as coordination of movement between the upper and lower body,” Snyder explains.

Carol Heinemann, who attended Snyder’s presentation at Genesis Village with her husband, Robert, also recognized the benefits tai chi can offer to seniors. She first heard about tai chi from a neighbor who was considering taking it up, so when her daughter, Laurels Rehab Services Director Julie Leidel, told her about the presentation at Genesis Village, where her brother happens to be a resident, she decided to go and learn more about the discipline. The fact that Snyder was Heinemann’s therapist at The Laurel’s after she underwent a knee replacement several years ago was an added inducement.

“We found the presentation to be very interesting,” she recalls. “Matt did an excellent job of explaining and demonstrating the tai chi moves. The movements were very slow, and sometimes he was standing in a rather odd position, but we noticed that he never once lost his balance. There were a lot of people in attendance, including several in wheelchairs who were not very mobile, and even they could do some of the elements he demonstrated using just their arms.”

To help clients visualize how tai chi can promote balance, Snyder suggests they think in terms of “filling and emptying.” For example, if they’re working on improving their gait and stability while walking, it helps to imagine that they’re “emptying” one leg and “filling” the other as they transfer weight from leg to leg. “This is very helpful because people who have difficulty walking are often in a hurry to put the next leg down in order to regain stability,” he says.

To Heinemann and her husband, Snyder’s presentation was an eye-opener that made them realize tai chi could be a good option for them in the future. “Bob and I both participated and really enjoyed it. For now, we both love to walk in the neighborhood for exercise, but if it gets to the point where we can’t get out and walk, we know tai chi is out there and it’s not difficult to do,” she says.

The Laurels of Toledo accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and all private commercial insurances. A physician’s order is required to obtain outpatient services. For more information, call 419-536-7600 or visit ❦