Stretching Is Good For Seniors

Many people still think that getting older is synonymous with getting stiffer, but research published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics shows that starting a regular yoga practice can improve senior women’s flexibility, functional ability, and quality of life.

In the study, 83 healthy but unfit women ages 62 to 81 were assigned to either a yoga group or a control group. Women in the yoga group participated in two one-hour Hatha yoga classes per week for 14 weeks. Hatha yoga consists of breathing exercises, physical exercises emphasizing balance, strength, and flexibility, and mental exercises to improve concentration and induce deep relaxation.

Yoga yields results
At the end of the trial, the women in the yoga group improved in ways that the control group did not, including:
• Increased range of motion in shoulder, spine, and hip.
• Faster performance on tests of functional independence (autonomy), such as walking, rising from sitting and lying down, moving about the house, and dressing.
• Higher scores on a quality-of-life questionnaire.
As the study’s authors summarized, “The study suggests that the regular practice of yoga may lead to improved range of motion in the performance of activities of daily living in elderly women.”

Yoga’s many benefits
The results from this study add to the growing body of evidence that the practice of yoga can benefit adults of all ages. Here are just a few of the many positive changes that people who regularly practice yoga may experience:
Better flexibility, balance and strength. Yoga works the muscles and builds body awareness and control.
Better cardiovascular health. Yoga has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and increase cardiac fitness and circulation.
Better immune function. Yoga strengthens the healthy immune activity and reduces immune over-activity in people with autoimmune diseases.
Better emotional health. Yoga is one of the best ways to reduce stress and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

To get started, find a class that offers beginning levels and alternate class with practice at home. Use yoga mats, blocks, straps, and balls for extra support while you are still developing flexibility and strength. Instructional books and videos may provide some structure and extra safety advice for your practice. Check with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.
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