Research reveals amazing impact yoga can have on mental and physical wellbeing in the over 60s

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  • The ancient practice of yoga has now become the cornerstone of many people’s wellness routines, with the range of purported benefits ranging from anything to general relaxation to easing anxiety.

    And now new a analysis conducted by the University of Edinburgh has revealed the staggering effect that yoga can have on the lives of older adults.

    Published in the International Journal of Behavioural Nutrition and Physical Activity, researchers conducted a review of 22 studies that had investigated the impact of yoga on mental and physical wellbeing, focusing on participants with a mean age of 60 years and above.

    The yoga programmes followed varied in duration from 30 to 90 minutes and in length from one month to seven months.

    The statistical analysis of the 22 studies looked at how yoga compared to other activities including chair aerobics and walking and as well as doing no activity.

    Overall they found that compared to doing no activity, practising yoga had helped to improve the following:

    • Balance
    • Flexibility
    • Leg strength
    • Depression
    • Sleep quality
    • Vitality and perceived mental and physical health

    And when compared to other activities, yoga helped to improve the following:

    • Lower body strength
    • Lower body flexibility
    • Depression

    Commenting, Divya Sivaramakrishnan of the University’s Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, said, “A large proportion of older adults are inactive, and do not meet the balance and muscle strengthening recommendations set by government and international health organisations. Based on this study, we can conclude that yoga has great potential to improve important physical and psychological outcomes in older adults.

    “Yoga is a gentle activity that can be modified to suit those with age-related conditions and diseases.”

    Late last year it was revealed that a £1.4 million study is recruiting almost 600 adults aged 65 and above who have multi-morbidity from 12 different UK locations, with a key focus on looking at the effect that The British Wheel of Yoga’s Gentle Years Yoga 12-week programme can have on overall quality of life when compared to a control group.

    MORE: How to get into yoga – whatever your age or size

    The University of York’s Trials Unit is co-ordinating the clinical trial with Northumbria University’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation.

    Associate Professor Garry Tew, from Northumbria’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, said, “Yoga is thought to bring wide-ranging benefits, such as increases in strength, flexibility, balance and quality of life, and reductions in stress, anxiety and depression.

    “In older adults specifically, there is promising evidence that yoga can improve physical function and quality of life, but more work is needed to understand the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of yoga in older people with multi-morbidity.”

    Continuing he added, “We are also measuring participants’ use of healthcare resources, which will allow us to establish the cost-effectiveness of the yoga programme. If these results are positive, they will provide evidence for healthcare commissioners to fund yoga within the NHS.”

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