Richard DicKard, 66, of Comptonville, Calif., enthusiastically advocates the exercise of tai chi, or "moving meditation," as he describes it. After practicing for more than 10 years, Richard has strengthened his bones and muscles, improved his balance, and increased his flexibility.
Appealing to both men and women, this sport combines elements of yoga, Pilates, meditation, and martial arts. In the self-defense portion of tai chi, an aggressor's move is used against him or her.
According to Richard, it took a year for him to reach a level of competence. Mastery is slowly acquired, so the exercise can be a lifetime sport appropriate for almost any age group. Teenagers and octogenarians often attend the same sessions.
The body eventually memorizes 60 to 100 movements. With each session, performance improves.
"It's like peeling an onion," Richard explains. "Each layer reveals a new aspect." He adds, "Because tai chi isn't a jock-type sport, it isn't always recognized for the skill and ability it demands."
Richard is a dentist and spends hours each day leaning over patients, stooping, sitting down, and bending. His profession puts him at risk for back problems. In addition, Richard's father had trouble with movement as he aged and at one point fell and broke his hip. Physically demanding work and the desire to maintain mobility and vitality as he ages are powerful motivators for Richard to practice healthy habits.
"I recommend tai chi to anyone wanting a lifelong, safe, practical, and health-promoting exercise," Richard says.