An innovative wheelchair tai chi program is motivating individuals who are wheelchair bound to become active and to feel empowered.

Zibin Guo, PhD, professor of anthropology at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, developed the 13-posture tai chi program as a mind-body healing art for people with ambulatory impairment. In China, the program is practiced by tens of thousands and is endorsed by the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, according to an article published in Technology and Innovation (2012; 13, 267–69). In America, the program is offered at Siskin Hospital in Chattanooga.

Being active presents challenges for people with disability, noted Guo, citing a National Health Interview Survey in which about 73% of people with disabilities reported engaging in either no or infrequent physical activity. “Too often, social and cultural barriers discourage people with physical disabilities from participating in fitness activities,” said Guo. “Wheelchair tai chi can be practiced seated for those needing simple, low-impact, upper-body exercise by integrating wheelchair motion with the gentle, dynamic flowing movements of tai chi. It lifts the spirit and gives practitioners a sense of command of space.”

To see a demonstration of wheelchair tai chi at the 2008 Beijing Olympics/Paralympics Cultural Festival, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=jR0DbXIS4GI.