Yoga Reduces Fear of Falling Among Elderly

Taking yoga classes yields a slight but important decrease in the fear of falling among senior citizens, a recent study showed, as well as conferring greater lower-body flexibility and removing constraints on their leisure activities. Fear of falling may have a significant impact on the health and quality of life of older adults because it causes them to curtail their social and physical activity. It has this effect even on those who have never fallen.

"Our study found that yoga was a feasible intervention with older adults and that they perceived great benefit from it," said Marieke Van Puymbroeck, an assistant professor in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. She recently discussed her research at the International Association of Yoga Therapists" Symposium for Yoga Therapy and Research, in Los Angeles. 

In the study, 14 men and women with an average age of 78 participated in a 12-week, twice-weekly, 60-minute class in hatha yoga, taught by a professional yoga therapist. Five of the subjects had fallen previously. Hatha yoga is a physically easy and non-strenuous form of yoga.

The attendance rate was quite high, Van Puymbroeck said, and the dropout rate very low - 90 percent and 6 percent respectively - an excellent showing compared with most physical activity and yoga classes for the elderly.

At the end of the 12 weeks, the subjects reported 6 percent less fear of falling, 34 percent greater lower-body flexibility, and a significant decline in leisure constraints.

Participants described "tremendous benefits," Van Puymbroeck said, repeatedly detailing their improved ability to generalize principles of posture to other situations, enlarged range of motion, better flexibility and improved balance.

 


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