For Marine Corps Veterans Shiela Horton and Brian Emery, the Tai Chi Anywhere program has made all the difference for their mental and physical health.

The duo has become quick friends and said the program at the Malcom Randall VA Medical Center in Gainesville, Florida, has made it convenient for them to connect while also making it possible for them to overcome their own personal health related issues.

“The Tai Chi Anywhere class is important to me because it provides a great social support group. The comradery shared in this class makes coming each week a highlight for me,” said Horton.

For others, Tai Chi has helped significantly improve their physical health. Emery said that his knee, hip, and back have been problematic for years.

“I was quite shocked to learn how off my balance was during my initial consultation with the physical medicine staff. I’d just accepted that I was going to have these issues for the rest of my life. I was used to it.

“I am more cognizant of how my body moves”

“Tai Chi has really helped to improve my strength, balance, concentration and breathing. Overall, I am more cognizant of how my body moves, which, in turn, has minimized my pain.”

Pictured above, Emery and Horton practice their Tai Chi at the Malcom Randall VA.

Steven Fowler and Susan Sims are physical therapists and Tai Chi program coordinators. They said the program offers Veterans a dynamic and unique experience. It has shown to improve aerobic capacity, strength, stress management, quality of life and pain management for those who participate.

“Anyone interested can simply ask their health care provider to place a consult in their record. After the consult is placed, the Veteran will get screened for safety and establish their appropriate starting level,” said Sims.

The program is available daily at both the Malcom Randall and Lake City VA Medical Center’s. Veterans also have the option to participate through VA Video Connect (VVC).

Veterans “getting a lot” out of telehealth sessions

“We tested this capability during the COVID-19 pandemic and patients seemed to really be getting a lot out of it,” said Mark Ward, physical therapist.

To date, there’s been over 1,300 appointments for face to face classes and Veterans attended 224 VVC appointments.


Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, is a public affairs officer for the Gainesville VAMC.

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Published on Jul. 2, 2021

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