One day, Ronald Jackson went for a walk. He ventured down to the community room in his St. Paul apartment building, a path he had taken many times before. But this time, he walked into an opportunity.
He met Xue Yang, a community health worker and class instructor setting up for the Juniper class, Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance. “What’s going on here?” Ronald asked. Xue’s answer led Ron to make Tai Ji Quan part of his road to good health.
Changing his lifestyle
After several years of watching television and eating poorly, Ronald had made a firm decision to get back in shape. He joined a health club, started pedaling on a stationary bike and lifting weights. Now after adding Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance to his exercise regimen, he says he feels stronger. “When I started learning the forms, it wasn’t difficult, but then I realized I was working muscles I hadn’t worked for a long time. The next morning, I felt better and stronger, so I know I need to feel the burn.”
Ronald says he has made a commitment to take Tai Ji Quan seriously to get the full benefit. “I’ve been familiar with martial arts since I was young, knowing it’s good conditioning for the body and the mind. In class, we lean forward and backwards, and learn how to maintain balance. If I were taking this class three to four times a week, I’d be a bad boy in a good way.”
At age 66, Ronald is working to stay fit. “I see a lot of people in my building use walkers, and I want to avoid that.” One thing Ronald is no longer avoiding, though, is his music. He credits his Tai Ji Quan class in part for bringing him back to his guitar after a 25-year break. He explains, “I’m now playing and singing in church. Albert Einstein said everything is relevant and because I feel better, I think more clearly and have a better attitude, so my music is better. I think I’m going to be as good on the guitar as I used to be.”
Playing his music
For Ronald, playing the guitar takes discipline and so does exercise. “The average person doesn’t have the discipline to get out of bed and exercise on their own. For me, it’s motivating to exercise with other people. I make myself get up at 7 a.m. and go to the gym, so I can get to my Tai Ji Quan class at 10 a.m.”
Walking also continues to be a priority for Ronald, and he feels more confident doing it now. “I walk better, and feel connected to my movements, so I’m not afraid of falling,” he says with confidence. “Little by little, I can tell the difference. I have more strength and energy now. I look at the little bitty things in my body where there is improvement and they continue to improve, little by little. I’m going to stick with Tai Ji Quan because with my exercise bike and lifting weights, it’s a win-win.”
"The key is to keep moving"
Ronald offers this advice for older adults who may be unsure about taking a Tai Ji Quan class. “Don’t think you can’t get in shape and function better in life. You can. Get up and stretch, walk and take a Tai Ji Quan class. The key is to keep moving, because if you don’t, you’ll shorten your life.”