As Belt Tightening Increases, Libraries Help Trim Costs and Improve Health

Participants get moving during the Library's weekly Qigong class, currently held at the Beall Park Art Center.

As this year’s Thanksgiving approaches, you’re in good company if you expect to loosen your literal belt while tightening your metaphoric one. Costs of living are skyrocketing, of course. And as people scan their purchase history for places to save, many are slashing expenditures for gyms, fitness classes, and exercise equipment.

At the same time, obesity rates continue to climb while life expectancy in America is in its steepest nosedive in a century. That decline is in large part due to Covid-19, which causes worse outcomes in people with chronic diseases often linked to obesity, such as diabetes and heart disease. The loss of three years’ life expectancy since 2019 means the average American is now lucky to surpass 76. (Alaskan Natives and Native Americans – Montana’s largest minority group – have lost a staggering 6.5 years of average lifespan.)

So where can you turn to keep both body and bank account healthy? You guessed it – your public library.

For years, your Bozeman Public Library has been offering adult movement classes for all abilities. Free classes like Yoga for All, High Intensity Interval Training, and Qigong, an ancient practice of moving meditation, are funded by the generosity of donors. The programs are part of the Library’s commitment to building a healthy, connected community.

Outdoor classes are on hiatus over the winter, but Qigong has moved indoors, with free lunchtime classes on Wednesdays at the Beall Park Art Center. Research on the health benefits of Qigong, while limited, is encouraging.

The traditional Chinese medicine practice may lower blood pressure and tamp down inflammation, which is a key contributor to chronic disease. Qigong may also reduce anxiety and depression and relieve chronic pain.

And importantly for our aging population, Qigong may increase bone density, improve balance, and reduce falls – a leading cause of death among the elderly.

Bozeman Public Library’s Qigong classes are taught by librarian Barb Muller, who holds a certificate in Therapeutic Qigong. Barb’s classes combine breathing exercises and meditation with gentle yet effective movements that can be easily adapted for any fitness level. 

“I was introduced to Qigong after a major health issue that left me in chronic pain for years,” explains Muller. “Although Western Medicine was a great assist through much of it, I wanted to move beyond a dependency and take an active role in my own health. Qigong gave me the tools I was looking for.”

In China, Qigong is considered one of the five pathways to good health. That’s for good reason, says Muller. “The exercise routines not only help the body become more flexible, supple, and aligned, but as you continue to practice, mental and emotional clarity also comes into focus. I describe Qigong like water; it can move gently but over time can make profound shifts.”

A portrait of Bozeman Public Library's qigong instructor, Barb Muller.
Barb Muller leads the Library's Qigong classes.

Want an additional incentive to swing by Beall Park Art Center and try a class? In addition to saving on your fitness class bills, mind-body practices like Qigong could even save on your healthcare costs. A study by the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute found that meditation, yoga, and the like reduced doctor visits by 43%. We’ll call that a win-win in this belt-tightening economy.

Check out the Library’s event calendar for details on Qigong and other programs.