Benefits of Yoga for Older Adults: A Review of Clinical Trials
As people age, maintaining physical activity is a key part of overall health. However, it can become more of a challenge as you age. This is why it’s important to find exercise routines that can support health while enhancing other areas of life. A recent review published in the Annals of Internal Medicine looked at 33 clinical trials conducted in various countries to see if yoga had any benefit over active interventions like exercise or tai chi.
Lead researcher Dr. Julia Loewenthal, a geriatrician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, says it’s hard to give specific advice based on the research that’s been done. That’s because the trials varied in the groups they studied—sometimes healthy older adults living at home, sometimes nursing home residents, and sometimes people with health conditions like knee arthritis or Parkinson’s disease. The studies also differed in the style of yoga used.
The review concluded that yoga may affect certain frailty markers that are associated with clinically meaningful outcomes in older adult populations, most notably gait speed and lower-extremity strength and endurance. In comparison to other active interventions such as exercise or tai chi, yoga may not necessarily provide any additional benefit.
For seniors looking to start a yoga practice, Loewenthal suggested an Iyengar-based class, which focuses on good form in the poses, can be adapted to individuals, and uses props to help people achieve the postures. Seniors should not avoid practicing yoga until they are more experienced. Alexander, who is an Iyengar yoga practitioner, concurred that a class of this type could be a great beginning. Exercising can have an effect on many physiological systems, enhancing one’s range of motion and making daily activities easier. For optimal safety, elderly individuals should begin with low-impact classes or receive personalized guidance on proper technique and think about chair-based yoga if they have restricted movement.
Older individuals have already been utilizing yoga to enhance their balance and mobility. It could be employed as a means of preventing or curing the disease. Ultimately, the most important thing is to find an activity that you enjoy and can stick with.
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