Tai Chi gets healthy praise

The Detroit News
December 18, 2002

Seniors say exercise relieves stress, helps flexibility

Sterling Heights —

Ernest Ashley's health hadn't been the best after suffering a heart attack 12 years ago.

The Sterling Heights resident had been taking medication to relieve after-effects of the heart attack, but still had trouble breathing.

Until six years ago when Ashley began taking Tai Chi Chu'an classes at the Sterling Heights Senior Center. He said his health has improved through stretching and meditation.

“It's remarkable,” said Ashley, 78, who was able to stop taking medication last year. “Everyone in the class has improved in one way or another.”

The Tai Chi Chu'an classes have become popular programs at the senior center since being offered in 1996. Seniors said the classes help general health and also improve specific ailments, such as arthritis and circulation problems.

“This class helped my circulation tremendously,” said Pat Kellogg, 61, a fourth-year Tai Chi Chu'an student. “It just opens up the veins. I don't have purple toes anymore.”

Instructor John Marchewitz, who teaches the Wu style of Tai Chi Chu'an, said one of the main reasons people take up the activity is to improve their health and well-being.

“It's a healing art form,” Marchewitz said. “It utilizes breathing, improves blood circulation, aids balance and relieves stress. Of course, if people don't want to heal, they won't. But most people have gotten results.”

Rose Prezkop, 81, said she believed the Tai Chi exercises and form — a set of postures done in a particular order — helped her in other activities.

“It relieves stress, aids flexibility and I think it helped my golf game,” Prezkop said. “I can twist my hips around better now for better shots.”

Classes are held Tuesdays and Thursdays and are divided into three levels — beginner, beginner II and intermediate. Seniors are invited to join at any time.

Nearly 20 seniors are enrolled in each of the classes and enrollment continues to grow each year.

“The first year, we started with only one class and now we're up to three,” said Helen Cerny, Senior Center coordinator.