Yoga Provides Numerous Benefits for Seniors

By David Virden on July 9, 2013

Yoga has long been a way to reduce stress, improve muscle tone and flexibility, lose weight and increase overall well-being. For seniors, these benefits could be even more meaningful than for the population at large – specifically, yoga can help reduce the incidence of seniors falling.

One out of three adults age 65 and older falls each year. While this may seem relatively innocuous, the reality is that, among this group, 20% to 30% suffer moderate to severe injuries that make it hard for them to get around or live independently, increasing their risk of early death. In fact, among people 65 and older, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death. The health care costs associated with these falls reaches almost $30 billion a year.

Yoga helps improve balance, muscle tone and strength, the lack of which are all contributors to falling. Yoga also has the advantage of being accessible to nearly everyone as it provides a low-impact workout and can be geared toward any level of experience and strength. It can also elevate one’s mood and help people sleep better.

Seniors who have recently suffered a stroke are at increased risk of falling. Yoga has been shown to help stroke victims function better. In a recent study, people who had recently had a stroke were divided into three groups: twice-weekly group yoga for eight weeks; a “yoga-plus” group, which met twice weekly and had a relaxation recording to use at least three times a week; and a usual medical care group that did no rehabilitation. The yoga classes, taught by a registered yoga therapist, included modified yoga postures, relaxation, and meditation. Classes grew more challenging each week.

Compared with patients in the usual-care group, those who completed yoga or yoga-plus significantly improved their balance. Furthermore, survivors in the yoga groups had improved scores for independence and quality of life and were less afraid of falling.

Yoga is also an excellent exercise option for people with arthritis. Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent the joint damage associated with arthritis, but because the condition causes pain, most people with the affliction avoid exercise as it exacerbates the pain. Studies have shown that very few people with arthritis get any kind of physical activity in their everyday life.

Yoga may offer these individuals a solution to the problem. Because yoga is low-impact, it may not bother the joints of a person with arthritis the way more traditional exercises like running or riding a bike can.

Yoga has been practiced for millennia for the benefits it provides to mind, body and soul. For seniors, it can provide the same benefits in addition to providing an outlet for socialization and possibly helping to prevent some of the maladies of growing older.