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Article by Sarah Hamilton-Walker | 1st May 2018

Stretch Your Way to Health

Easy and low-impact routines that can keep you fit and help you make friends.

It’s never too late to start exercising – and Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates are three easy, low-impact routines that can keep you fit, as well as boost your mood and even help you get a better night’s sleep.

Yoga

Focusing on breathing, strength and flexibility, this ancient form of exercise from India can boost both physical and mental wellbeing. There is a vast range of styles – from gentle Viniyoga to fast-flowing Ashtanga and Bikram – so you are bound to find a class to suit you.

Pros: There’s evidence to show that yoga reduces blood pressure, slows the ageing process, eases the pain of arthritis, and helps combat depression and stress, as well as improving muscle strength, flexibility and balance.

Get involved: Visit British Wheel of Yoga (www.bwy.org.uk) or www.localyogaclasses.co.uk, which has more than 11,300 yoga and Pilates classes listed from over 5,600 qualified instructors/teachers. Check at the library, community centre or village hall, church noticeboard/parish news and the Kent Adult Education website www.kentadulteducation.co.uk or call 03000 41 2222.

Pilates

Suitable for most people Pilates is a system of exercises to strengthen the core muscles, including the abdominals, the pelvic floor and those muscles supporting the spine for lower back to neck. Originally developed by Joseph Pilates, the exercises are done on a mat or carried out on special equipment, such as the Reformer, which has straps, pulleys and springs that can provide support or resistance, depending on your needs.

Pros: A low-impact, muscle-strengthening form of exercise, great for improving balance and posture, relieving stress and reducing lower back pain. You can have one-to-one apparatus-based classes or mat-based classes with other Pilate-goers.

Get involved: Check out the Pilates Foundation (www.pilatesfoundation.com), or visit Pilates Near You official website – www.pilatesnearyou.co.uk – which gives you access to thousands of Pilates classes, training workshops, events in studios and fitness centres UK-wide under qualified Pilates instructors. Check at the library, community centre, church noticeboard/parish news and the Kent Adult Education website (details as before).

Tai Chi

This ancient Chinese system of movement and meditation is based on one of the martial arts – but without the combat element. It involves performing slow, graceful, continuous movements, which are gentle on the joints and muscles. There are several styles, such as Yang, Chen and Wu – the main differences being in the speed of the movement and the way the body holds the postures, which can help to improve mental and physical wellbeing.

Pros: Effective at reducing the risk of falls, easing back pain and boosting mood. It is a great low-impact exercise to improve balance and increase muscle strength and flexibility. You’ll also learn the various breathing techniques and tips to increase breathing on a long-term basis.

Get involved: There are bound to be local classes – check at the library, community centre, village hall, church noticeboard/parish news – there might even be free Tai Chi in the park sessions taking place locally. For further information, and to find a local teacher through the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain, visit www.taichiunion.com or check out the Kent Adult Education website (details as before) or call 03000 41 2222 for courses running throughout the county.

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