A recent study by a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of family medicine indicates seniors who practice yoga on a regular basis may dramatically decrease their risk of falls and potentially serious injuries. According to the study, the number of falls in older adults dropped 48 percent in the six months after yoga classes began, compared to the six months previous.
The study looked at older, rural adults who attended yoga classes in Western Wisconsin and were asked to perform several different types of yoga poses in biweekly classes for eight weeks. The average age of the 38-participants was 70-years old, well within the risk zone for older adults.
In the six months prior to the yoga classes, 15 of the participants reported 27 falls. In the following six months after the start of classes, 13 people reported 14 falls. Those numbers are statistically significant and a longer study is now under consideration will likely last 12 or 16-weeks.
Among people aged 65 and up, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death, and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and emergency room admissions. Thirty percent of the same age group experiences a fall each year and by age 80, as many as 50 percent will experience a potentially serious fall. Some of the most common senior injuries from falls include pelvic, hip, and knee injuries that can take months to properly heal from.
In addition to their twice-weekly yoga sessions, instructors asked the participants to perform various levels of meditation as a relaxation and emotional wellness component. All participants were asked to perform at least 5 minutes of meditation and half would randomly be asked to perform up to 10-minutes of meditation.
Researchers with the group believe the study’s positive results come from yoga’s ability to strengthen our cores, putting us more in control of our everyday movements and giving us the strength to avoid potentially dangerous falls. Furthermore, participants showed improvement in their walking gait and balance, another benefit of the routine that can drastically improve the everyday life of ordinary people.
According to the study, participants for the most part reported feeling more confident with their balance and were able to incorporate various aspects of the lessons into their daily routines. The study could be a positive sign that even a little bit of strength and balance conditioning can go along way to keeping seniors active and healthy long into their golden years.