Physical activity is important for us at any age but especially through our older years. We need to keep our bodies in motion to stay healthy.
Yoga is a great way to stay active, keep joints fluid and stretch those muscles! We, as well as others, have encouraged our seniors to participate in yoga.
Recently the National Institutes of Health studied the actual effects yoga has on the health of seniors. They tried to determine how safe yoga was for seniors and how effective.
Yoga’s Effects on Seniors Studied
Researchers at the University of Southern California and UCLA were the first to quantify the biomechanical effects of yoga on healthy seniors. The study is entitled Yoga Empowers Seniors Study or YESS.
Through their study they want to provide information to yoga instructors for the design of yoga programs for seniors. This approach takes into account that older adults typically have reduced balance, strength and range of motion compared to younger adults. The yoga program needs to be focused on how older adults use their muscles and joints during the yoga postures to provide meaningful benefits.
Hatha yoga is the most widely used form of yoga, which is a mind-body practice. This type of yoga uses breathing techniques and flowing movements. Meditation is also a component that could benefit many seniors.
- Participants were fitted with instruments to measure their muscle movements
- High-speed cameras were placed in the room where yoga was performed to capture the movement
- Data was sent to computers where technicians used software of a model skeleton to monitor the forces on joints and muscles with each pose.
Yoga Benefits Identified in the Study
- Muscular endurance improved
- Balance was not increased
- Joint pain was reported, especially shoulder pain, causing a modification in poses
- Sequencing of poses was found to be important for achieving benefits
- Quality of life was improved, seniors enjoyed attending and wanted to participate, even with complaints of soreness
- Mental engagement and socialization were enhanced
Researchers recommend that the most beneficial use of yoga may be as a transition from physical therapy treatment. If the poses were incorporated into therapy movements then continued as part of a senior-dedicated yoga class, the benefits would be increased. They urge seniors to select a class that is focused on their special needs and movements, designed for aging bodies so that injury is less likely to occur.
Let’s all get our senior loved ones moving in physical activities that are safe, enjoyable and will show improvements in our health!