When Carrie Krebs of Carrollton signed up for tai chi, she wasn’t sure it was good idea.
But Krebs was sure that she had to do something to lose weight and manage her fibromyalgia. And it looked like Tai Chi for Health, a free program offered by Tanner Health System’s Get Healthy, Live Well, would help alleviate the chronic pain associated with the condition.
“I was looking at the Tanner website and it was one of those things I sort of scanned through on the slideshows and I thought it sounded like something I could do — so I signed up,” Krebs said.
Get Healthy, Live Well offers Tai Chi for Health classes to help adults increase mobility, improve balance and physical function, and reduce stress. Based on Sun and Yang style tai chi, the program combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow, gentle movements. Fundamental movement sets are taught, along with warm-up and cool-down exercises. Qigong breathing exercises are also included.
“The purpose of Tai Chi for Health is to empower people to improve their health and wellness,” said Phyllis Head, a tai chi instructor at Get Healthy, Live Well. “Studies show that tai chi is as good as or better than aerobic exercise for managing chronic pain.”
According to a March 2018 study published in the British Medical Journal, tai chi appears as effective as or better for managing fibromyalgia. The study also found that a longer duration of tai chi results in greater benefits with patients more likely to attend tai chi classes.
As the date of Kreb’s first tai chi class at Tanner approached, she debated whether she should go.
“I thought, ‘I don’t know anything about it,’ and ‘I’m going to look like an idiot doing these moves,’” Krebs said. “The class wasn’t like that at all. They did a great job breaking it down and explaining how to do the movements so you didn’t feel like you stand out as not knowing what’s going on.”
Over the course of six weeks, she not only lost eight pounds, but is feeling less stressed, which is a huge win for the 35-year-old stay-at-home mom who cares for six kids — ages 6 to 15 —while living with a chronic condition that she has had for half her life.
“It’s helped me relax,” Krebs said. “It’s great exercise, but it’s also great for my stress level. It’s really helped a lot.”
Krebs, who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when she was in her early teens, moved from Michigan to Carrollton about three years ago. Moving to a warmer climate was a welcome change. But as she settled into her new hometown, she also noticed a change in her weight.
Since moving to Carrollton, Krebs has gained 60 pounds, making it more difficult for her to get around. And with the increase in weight, her fibromyalgia had gotten worse.
“I realized I need to get some of it off, but the problem with fibromyalgia is that a lot of those higher impact exercises just really hurt a lot,” Krebs said. “I thought tai chi was something I could do that wouldn’t hurt me. I’d still be able to function the next day.”
After taking her first class, which began at 8 a.m., she found that she was able to go about her daily routine.
“I go home and I’m fine,” Krebs said. “I can do everything I need to do the next morning. I can still get out of bed, so it worked out great.”
She is so impressed with how much tai chi has improved her health that she tells anyone who will listen how effective the class is.
“I’m a Girl Scouts leader and I was telling a lot of other parents about it and quite a few of them wouldn’t mind giving it a try themselves,” Krebs said.
She admits she was surprised Tanner offered tai chi. “I didn’t know hospitals did classes like this,” Krebs said.
While taking the class, she learned about the other wellness programs offered by Get Healthy, Live Well. She is now considering signing up for the Diabetes Prevention Program.
To sign up for Tai Chi for Health, call 770.214.CARE or register online at GetHealthyLiveWell.org.