Blog Archive

Friday, 27 December 2019

Tai Chi - Components of Fitness Part 1

The martial arts of China have a fascinating centuries long history from which modern day Tai Chi for Health springs. Some instructors find it tempting to stick with old ways of teaching without asking, 'Could I teach in a better way?'

Tai Chi Chuan at Kung Fu Corner, Kowloon Park, Hong Kong
Tai Chi Chuan at Kung Fu Corner, Kowloon Park, Hong Kong
Image by Jakub Hałun [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

One of the ways Helen and I think about describing Tai Chi and Qigong to modern audiences stems from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) the industry standard for health and fitness instruction.

The ACSM uses evidence from research to constantly update and revise best practice when teaching activities to groups or individuals for their health and enjoyment. They describe health and exercise in terms of components. Different types of activity and exercise tend to emphasise particular components.

Let's take a look at those components. They break down into five health-related components and six skills-related components:
Health-Related Components of Physical Fitness 
  1. Cardiovascular Endurance
  2. Muscular Strength
  3. Muscular Endurance
  4. Flexibility
  5. Body Composition 
Skills-Related Components of Fitness 
  1. Speed
  2. Power
  3. Agility
  4. Balance
  5. Coordination
  6. Reaction Time
So, how do the ACSM's fitness components fit with regular Tai Chi practise?

Research suggests the following health-related fitness components for Tai Chi include:
cardiovascular endurance,
muscular strength,
muscular endurance,
and flexibility; 
and the following skills components of
and power.
The slow continuous movements of Tai Chi load the hips and legs constantly with the transfer of body weight from stance to stance. This continuous shifting load of body weight from one leg to the other builds strength and muscular endurance and improves agility, balance, and power.

In a similar way to the legs and hips, the shoulder girdle and arms benefit from the slow continuous load and coordinated movements of the extended arms and hands.

With a little regular practise Tai Chi improves range of motion (flexibility) in both the upper and lower limbs. We find participants start to report their increased confidence in their ability to enjoy activities of daily living as they begin to master the movements of their leg and arms along with carrying themselves with improved posture.

Tai Chi in Haikou Peoples Park
Tai Chi in Haikou Peoples Park
Image by Anna Frodesiak [CC0]

Surprisingly, evidence appears to show a marked improvement in cardiovascular endurance with regular practice of Tai Chi as seen on an episode of the BBC series, Trust Me I'm a Doctor.

We can say with some confidence that regular practise of Tai Chi has no reported adverse consequences, and research supports the claim that regular practise of Tai Chi will support people to continue to enjoy a high quality of life into older age.

As instructors and practitioners in the 21st century Helen and I constantly reflect and ask the question of ourselves, 'How can we facilitate the learning and enjoyment of Tai Chi as an accessible activity that inspires confidence in our participants from their very first class?'

As we move into 2020 we continue in our journey to offer people Tai Chi for Health from an evidence based perspective.

We look forward to the New Year and sharing our journey with you.

All the best

Phil & Helen : )

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Tai Chi for Health Class - Crossflatts

Pleased to announce our new Tai Chi for Health class at St Aidan's Church Hall, Crossflatts, BD16 2AR. Opening on the 9th December 2019.

Our thirteenth class in the Aire Valley. We aim to offer people in Bingley and Keighley more choice to enjoy their favourite Tai Chi and Qigong classes with us.

Poster for Tai Chi at Crossflatts, Bingley
Tai Chi for Health - Crossflatts, Bingley.

On Monday 23rd December we will have food and beverages for anyone from any class to join us for a celebration before the Christmas Holidays - starting at 1:30pm to 3:30pm.

Class Details:

Monday's from: 9th December - 1:30pm to 2:30pm.

All classes run on an open and ongoing basis.

First session £3, then £6 per class.

All welcome.

If you think someone you know might like this new class or any of our other classes please do share this blog post with them or on your social media channels.

Phil :)

Photography by Paula Solloway Photography

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Tai Chi CPD Workshop for Health Professionals

Discover Tai Chi - Helen & Phil
Image by Paula Solloway
We ran our first full day Continuing Professional Development (CPD) workshop for health professionals on the 8th November at Bingley Community Health Centre.

We felt a little nervous as we had a lot of information and practise to get across in one day. We spent a couple of months reviewing research papers, discussing, writing, and editing lesson plans, and just thinking it through.

We finalised our plan to cover the most recent systematic reviews on the benefits of regular  Tai Chi, recent UK guidelines on best practice with regard to physical activity - that also recommend regular Tai Chi practise, a brief history on the origins Tai Chi, and most importantly, plenty of practise.

We wanted to make sure that the attendees would get the chance to paraphrase Bruce Lee, to not just think about Tai Chi but feel it also.

Dr. Paul Lam with Phil & Helen
Phil, Dr. Paul Lam, & Helen
We introduced the twelve attendees to the core movements of the Tai Chi for Arthritis programme created by Dr. Paul Lam, founder of the Tai Chi for Health Institute.

This short program proved perfect for our purposes as it has a good evidence base for its efficacy for improving health and well-being, and as a primary preventative exercise for falls prevention.

At the end of the day, feeling exhausted and elated at the same time, we gathered in the anonymous feedback forms from all the attendees. We felt a little more than blown away faced with the positive reviews.

We'll let the attendees words speak for themselves:

UK Physical Activity Guidelines 2019
UK Physical Activity Guidelines 2019
Would you recommend this workshop, if so what would you say about it when talking with a colleague?
  • "Good evidence base which is important for evidence-based practice. Practical workshop really good." 
  • "I would say that this course was not only useful for my patients but useful for myself too."
  • "Well presented, friendly atmosphere created Highly enjoyable and worthwhile.  Thanks."
  • "Good passionate presenters; good amount of practical elements, thanks!"
  • "Informative useful, well-paced, excellent."
  • "Very useful techniques/ideas. Interesting new concepts."
  • "Evidence-based - Engaging articulate hosts."
  • "Very informative good instruction."
  • "Enjoyable, learning a new experience. Anybody can do it."
  • "Fantastic Knowledge very engaging teaching."
  • "Good foundations for something bound to be more popular and relevant in the future of physiotherapy."
What did you find most beneficial?
  • "Link of evidence to practice - the scientific basis."
  • "Examples that were given of the conditions or presentations that may benefit."
  • "Practical element very enjoyable and good pace."
  • "Useful techniques/approaches to use in practice and to identify individuals to refer on."
  • "Lead by medically framed/evidence-based professionals and constantly related to MSK conditions and biopsychosocial model."
  • "Clear concise instructions, good info on background/history. 
  • "Really enjoyed the practise and learning the sequences."
  • "Practical and scientifically evidence-based." 
  • "Measured clear instruction."
  • "Ideas for falls patients! The ways moves can be applied to complex needs patients."
Discover Tai Chi Portrait of Helen and Phil
Image by Kate Bamber Photography
Anything you would have liked covered that wasn't in the workshop?
  • "No."
  • "Very thorough content."
We would like to express our appreciation to all the attendees on the day who got into the spirit of things right from the start and remained enthused to the very end.
  • "You exceeded expectations!"
Based on the overwhelming feedback we feel inspired to run more CPD workshops for health professionals in the future.

If you would like us to run a dedicated evidence based CPD workshop for you and your colleagues, or you would like to find out more about Dr. Paul Lam's Tai Chi for Health programmes please do get in touch.

T: 07528 959091

We look forward to talking with you.

Helen & Philip

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Tai Chi - Five Ways to Wellbeing

Tai Chi for Health and the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

Research on Tai Chi and Qigong appears to demonstrate the potential benefits these slow, meditative movements can offer adults and older adults looking to remain active into later life. Participants in our classes and at our workshops regularly report, anecdotally and via our evaluation forms, the benefits they feel after joining one of our classes.

We have found these benefits tend to fall in three themes or groups:

1. Functional Benefits
Being more active, improved balance, better coordination and mobility, feeling stronger, deep sense of relaxation, reduced stress, enjoying higher quality of sleep.

2. Emotional Benefits
Feeling more connected, more confident, sense of authenticity, more resilient, feeling of mastery, a sense of calm, humility, grace and ease, a willingness to take on other activies, a sense of Mindfulness throughout the day.

3. Social Benefits
Becoming more engaged in with others, within their community, as a volunteer, or expressing an interest in assisting or even leading a class, and becoming an accredited instructor too.

Tai Chi, Cannon Beach, Oregon.
Image by Michael Hren
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Dr. Peter M. Wayne, at Harvard Medical School, talks about the benefits of Tai Chi as being cohesive and integrative. In his book, The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi, Dr. Wayne describes Tai Chi as having a number of active ingredients beyond the common therapeutic factors normally associated with public health programmes:
'Perhaps what makes Tai Chi so special is that this holistic, multicomponent exercise affects us at physical, psychological, social and philosophical levels. Its multilevel effects are especially important for complex chronic diseases that involve many systems throughout the body…' P. 29
Wayne Peter M. PhD. with Fuerst Mark L. The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi. Boston: Shambala, Harvard Health Publications; 2013.

We think the active ingredients described by Dr. Wayne fit within the evidence based model for wellbeing by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) called the Five Ways to Wellbeing.

The Five Ways offers people a simple way to take an active role in their health and wellbeing. They include:

Five Ways to Wellbeing Poster
Five Ways to Wellbeing
Image source:

Within our classes and workshops we see the Five Ways to Wellbeing in the following ways:
1. Connect – Joining one of our classes can prove a big step for some people. Our relaxed and warm atmosphere encourages people to form new friendships and develop informal social networks of support. 
2. Be Active – Tai Chi fits perfectly as rewarding activity that people enjoy and keep doing. Participants like to know that good evidence supports the reported benefits. 
3. Take Notice – We introduce people to a key Tai Chi principle called Jing, meaning mental serenity or mindfulness. Fostering a sense of Jing helps people listen to their bodies, listen to others, and take notice of the world around them. 
4. Keep Learning – We use a progressive teaching approach in all our classes and workshops. We offer people just the right amount of challenge to foster a sense of growing mastery as they continue to learn and practise their movement skills. 
5. Give – Within our classes we see people connect with others to offer support both within the class and in ways outside of the classroom too.
Whatever reason you have for joining one of our Tai Chi classes we introduce you to the principles and benefits from your very first class. The Tai Chi for Health programmes and Qigong we teach have many depths for you to explore.

Bring an open mind, a willingness to practise a little at home, and you will soon feel the benefits too.

Please do share this blog post with friends, family, and colleagues if you think they may like to find out more about our evidence based Tai Chi and Qigong programmes.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Why Tai Chi Improves Your Balance?

We have received many reports from our participants - 85% aged 70 and over - saying how their balance has improved after joining one of our classes.

For some time now Helen and I have speculated that the eight core movements of the Tai Chi of Arthritis/Falls Prevention (TCA/FP) programme target some particular muscle groups seen as important in maintaining our balance, especially as we get older.

The eight core movements from Tai Chi for Arthritis/Falls Prevention - Part 1.

Research has shown the TCA/FP programme developed by Australian GP Dr. Paul Lam has proven beneficial in falls prevention as well as promoting improvement in general health and wellbeing:
“The Sydney Central Area Health Promotion study is community based and the world’s largest fall prevention study with 700 subjects. After 16 weeks of Tai Chi (80% doing Tai Chi for Arthritis), the incident of multiple falls was reduced by an incredible 70%.”
Alexander Voukelatos et all, Journal American Geriatrics Society, AUGUST 2007–VOL. 55, NO. 8, A Randomized, Controlled Trial of tai chi for the Prevention of Falls: The Central Sydney tai chi Trial. (NB: 80% of subjects were taught Tai Chi for Arthritis).
We think the benefits of the TCA/FP programme stems from the emphasis on the weight bearing movement from side to side found in the eight core movements. From an anatomical and movement science point of view we describe this side to side movement as happening medio-laterally and in the frontal plane.

Exercise physiologist and exercise scientist, Sean Wilson, in a recent article at his blog Fit Grey Strong has speculated, like us, that the muscles on the outside of the hip (the abductors) and inside leg (adductors) play a significant role in maintaining our balance as we get older. He references some very interesting research into the important role these muscle groups play in maintaining our balance. See below for the references mentioned.

The research suggests that exercise programmes aimed at improving balance and preventing falls could benefit from more emphasis on movements that strengthen these particular muscle groups.

The sequences found within the eight core movements called, Single Whip (to the right and left) and Wave Hands (to the right and left) target these muscles. Both sequences emphasize controlled transfer of weight from side to side, from one leg to the other and back again.

Many of our participants say they can feel how hard their hips muscles work when we practise these movements in our classes.

We aim to support all the programmes we teach with evidence from research, especially in relation to balance and strength in older adults. It seems we may now know a little more about why the TCA/FP programme has performed so well in falls prevention.

If you enjoyed this blog you may like our previous blog post on Keeping strong. As we get older we begin to lose muscle mass, strength and power. Staying strong can help us enjoy a high quality of life and have a positive impact on preventing falls as we get older.

Please do share this blog post with family, friends and colleagues who you think might like to read it.

Research referenced by Sean Wilson at Fit Grey Strong with three bonus papers on Tai Chi and its influence on our gait - 2. 8. & 9.

Daun F, Kibele A. Different strength declines in leg primary movers versus stabilizers across age—Implications for the risk of falls in older adults? PLoS One [Internet]. 2019 Mar 7 [cited 2019 Aug 29];14(3). Available from:
Tseng S-C, Liu W, Finley M, McQuade K. Muscle activation profiles about the knee during Tai-Chi stepping movement compared to the normal gait step. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology [Internet]. 2007 Jun 1 [cited 2019 Aug 23];17(3):372–80. Available from:
Inacio M, Creath R, Rogers MW. Low-dose hip abductor-adductor power training improves neuromechanical weight-transfer control during lateral balance recovery in older adults. Clinical Biomechanics [Internet]. 2018 Dec 1 [cited 2019 Aug 19];60:127–33. Available from:
Inacio M, Creath R, Rogers MW. Effects of aging on hip abductor-adductor neuromuscular and mechanical performance during the weight transfer phase of lateral protective stepping. J Biomech. 2019 03;82:244–50.
Porto JM, Freire Júnior RC, Bocarde L, Fernandes JA, Marques NR, Rodrigues NC, et al. Contribution of hip abductor-adductor muscles on static and dynamic balance of community-dwelling older adults. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2019 May;31(5):621–7.
Takizawa M, Suzuki Y, Kobayashi Y. Adductor magnus is just as much an antigravity muscle around hip joint as gluteus maximus. Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine [Internet]. 2018 Jul 1 [cited 2019 Aug 19];61:e536–7. Available from:
Mille M-L, Johnson-Hilliard M, Martinez KM, Zhang Y, Edwards BJ, Rogers MW. One step, two steps, three steps more ... Directional vulnerability to falls in community-dwelling older people. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2013 Dec;68(12):1540–8.
Zhu Q, Huang L, Wu X, Wang L, Zhang Y, Fang M, et al. Effects of Tai Ji Quan training on gait kinematics in older Chinese women with knee osteoarthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Sport and Health Science [Internet]. 2016 Sep 1 [cited 2019 Jul 7];5(3):297–303. Available from:
Hong Y, Li JX. Biomechanics of Tai Chi: A review. Sports Biomechanics [Internet]. 2007 Sep 1 [cited 2019 Jul 7];6(3):453–64. Available from:

Monday, 29 July 2019

Tai Chi and Qigong Class Silsden

Image of Silsden Town Hall
New Tai Chi and Qigong Class Silsden Town Hall
We look forward to starting our newest Tai Chi and Qigong class on 22nd August 2019 at Silsden Town Hall.

Classes will run every Thursday 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Your first class is half price and then £6 per week on a pay as you go basis with no need to book.

We offer a warm welcome to everyone, especially those just starting. No special clothing or equipment needed. Just wear comfortable clothing, flat-soled shoes and a smile! Please bring a drink in warm weather.

Silsden Town Hall offers a fantastic accessible venue with a large ground floor room with lots of natural light. It has easily accessible toilets and the Community Library in the room next door. You will find a car park across the road which is only 60p an hour.

Why Try Tai Chi and Qigong?

Our regular participants tell us how they feel at the end of our classes. They say they have better balance and feel stronger, meaning they can do jobs in the garden more easily, enjoy walks with family and friends, and feel more independent.

Tai Chi and Qigong offer people an ideal exercise that goes easy on joints while strengthening muscles and improving balance. Many of our participants tell us how much better they sleep after a class and how it has helped reduce blood pressure.

As an accessible exercise for everyone tai chi and qigong has featured in research (including a recent feature in the BBC TV series, Trust Me I’m a Doctor) demonstrating its benefits for improved health and wellbeing.

If you have a serious health condition you may wish to contact your G.P or specialist first to check if you are ready to start an exercise class.

If you think a family member, friend or colleague would like to know more about us and our classes please do share this blog page with them.

Helen and Philip look forward to seeing you.

For more details phone 07528 959091, or

Message us on Facebook at:

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Tai Chi at Cliffe Castle, Keighley

Such a pleasure to announce our new outdoor Tai Chi for Health class at Cliffe Castle Park, Keighley.

Classes start from Monday 20th May 2019 - 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm.
First two classes only £2.50. Then £5.50 on a pay as you go basis.
Meet outside the cafe adjacent to the restored conservatory at 1:15pm.

Set in the beautiful Cliffe Castle Park that surrounds Cliffe Castle Museum.
The park has some fine specimen trees, a newly restored water garden, conservatory, an aviary, and cafe.

People enjoy a Tai Chi & Qigong class at Cliffe Castle Park, Keighley
Tai Chi & Qigong at Cliffe Castle Park, Keighley.

Wear suitable clothing for the British weather. A windproof top, warm breathable layers, and good flat soled outdoor footwear. If you use walking aids please bring them with you. You'll find plenty of tables and seating available at the lawn area where we will to hold the class.

Led by Board Accredited instructor Helen Parsons and assisted by Val Preston. They teach Tai Chi for Health programmes created by Australian family physician Dr. Paul Lam. Dr Lam founded the Tai Chi for Health Institute in 2010.

Helen and Val look forward to welcoming new starters who'd like to give Tai Chi ago as well as participants from our other classes in Airedale and Craven.

Helen says, "Originally created as a martial art, Tai Chi today is practised for its health benefits as series of slow, continuous movements that build strength, improve balance, and promote deep relaxation."

Val says, "The great thing about Tai Chi is that age and ability is no barrier and more importantly, Tai Chi is a daily activity that I enjoy doing and would like other people to feel the same benefits I have."

Helen is an Occupational Therapist and has practised Tai Chi and Qigong over 10 years.

Val Preston runs her own business, Truly Essential Holistic & Beauty Therapist. She started learning Tai Chi for Health in 2017 and aims to become a certified instructor this year.

For more details phone 07528 959091

Visit / Facebook: @Huntun.taichi