Taking Wheelchair Tai Chi To China : Shots - Health News Wheelchair tai chi helps disabled Americans, both the jocks and the non-jocks.
NPR logo Taking Wheelchair Tai Chi To China

Taking Wheelchair Tai Chi To China

Dr. Zibin Guo leads a tame version of wheelchair tai chi in Beijing, but he envisions a more competitive version someday /University of Tennessee at Chattanooga hide caption

toggle caption
/University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Wheelchair athletes have been racing the pavement -- and basketball, rugby, and tennis courts -- for years. NPR's Joe Shapiro says that when you spend a little time with these jocks, as he has for a number of stories, your image of life in the chair changes fast.

"Think about what it takes to propel a manual wheelchair around all day," Shapiro says. "A gym membership and hours of dumbbell curls couldn't get you a ripped body any better."

Some colleges, he says, now offer athletic scholarships for players of "quad rugby," the full contact sport immortalized in the 2005 movie "Murderball."

Recently we learned of a slightly less murderous variation on that theme out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Zibin Guo, a UTC anthropologist, has adapted the martial art for people in wheelchairs, as a gentle, self-paced form of exercise that can get even the very sick and recently injured moving.

In a tiny pilot study of his concept at UTC, elderly survivors of stroke and people with multiple sclerosis liked the program.

Guo says there's also a place for a jock version of the sport. He's organizing an annual national competition with Chinese Paralympics officials in Beijing.