Regular participation in yoga classes may help older people to stay independent and avoid falls, a Sydney scientist has found.
Dr Anne Tiedemann and a team at the George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney, found that participants’ balance and mobility had significantly improved after 12 weeks of yoga, while the comparison group had declined. The research was published in the July Journal of Gerontology: Medical Science.
“Previous research has shown that older people who perform well on these balance and mobility tests are about half as likely to fall as people with poor balance and mobility,” says Anne, the study leader and a NHMRC postdoctoral research fellow. “These results show that yoga may prevent falls in older age.”
The study involved 54 people, aged 59 to 87 years. Half of the group took part in twice-weekly Iyengar yoga classes and the other half did no yoga. After 12 weeks the yoga participants showed marked improvements in mobility and balance when performing tests such as one-legged standing, walking fast and standing up from a seated position without arm support.
Falls are a major threat to independence in older age and can result in lasting disability, reduced quality of life and even death. At least one in three older people fall each year, translating to around 1 million older Australians falling annually.
“It’s vital that older people work on their balance through targeted exercise to prevent a fall and experiencing these serious outcomes,” Anne says.