London: A review analyzing the results of 22 randomized clinical trials has found that yoga practice can improve many aspects of physical and mental health among older adults.
Yoga can be an effective option for older alduts who want to maintain good physical and mental health.
Yoga refers to a series of mind-body practices that originate in Hindu tradition.
However, they are growing in popularity across the world as an alternative well-being practice.
Statistic show that in 2015 in the United States alone, as many as 36.7 million people practiced yoga, and by 2020, estimates suggest that this number will have increased to over 55 million people.
People who practice yoga often share anecdotes regarding its beneficial effect on their mental and physical health. Intrigued by such reports, some scientists set out to verify whether the benefits are real.
Indeed, some studies have found that different yoga practices are able to improve a person’s general sense of well-being, as well as various aspects of their physical health.
For example, a series of studies from 2017 suggested that people who joined a yoga program experienced lower levels of anxiety and depression.
A study from 2016 found that practicing yoga correlated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment in older adults, and research from earlier this year concluded that 8 weeks of intense yoga practice reduced the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
Now, investigators at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom have conducted a review, analyzing the findings of 22 randomized and cluster-randomized clinical trials that assessed the benefits of yoga practice for healthy older adults.
The trials considered the effects of varied yoga programs — with program durations between 1 and 7 months and individual session durations between 30 and 90 minutes — on both mental and physical well-being.
In the review, which features as an open access article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the researchers conducted statistical analysis to assess the combined findings of the 22 trials. They compared the benefits associated with yoga with those of other light physical activities, such as walking and chair aerobics.
The team found that among people with a mean age of 60 years or over, practicing yoga — compared with not engaging in physical activity — helped improve their physical balance, flexibility of movement, and limb strength. It also reduced depression, improved sleep quality, and boosted their vitality.
Also, the researchers noticed that older adults who practiced yoga perceived their own physical and mental health to be satisfactory.
When compared with other light physical activities, such as walking, yoga seemed to more effectively improve older adults’ lower body strength, enhance their lower body flexibility, and reduce their symptoms of depression.
“A large proportion of older adults are inactive and do not meet the balance and muscle strengthening recommendations set by government and international health organizations,” notes Divya Sivaramakrishnan, the review’s lead author.
However, yoga can be an easy, adaptable, and attractive form of physical activity, and since the evidence suggesting that it can be beneficial for health is building up, joining a yoga program could be a good option for older adults looking to stay in shape — both physically and mentally.
“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.”
Can yoga reduce blood pressure?
Yoga is a mind-body therapy based on movement, and it may provide a range of health benefits. Can it lower high blood pressure?
Research suggests that yoga can help alleviate specific symptoms, reduce inflammation, and improve a person’s quality of life.
Yoga is a physical, spiritual, and mental discipline that began in India. It combines gentle movements with controlled, focused breathing and meditation. In recent decades, the practice has become popular in the United States. Meanwhile, researchers have been working to uncover how yoga benefits human health.
In this article, we describe scientific investigations into the effects of yoga on high blood pressure.
Below, we summarize research into yoga’s potential to reduce blood pressure. High blood pressure can increase the risk of a number of health problems, but yoga may help reduce it.
In 2011, Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine published research into the effects of Iyengar yoga on high blood pressure.
In the study, participants had slightly or mildly elevated blood pressure and were not receiving treatment.
Researchers divided them into two groups.
One performed Iyengar exercises over a 12-week period. These participants had little or no prior experience with yoga. The other group made personalized dietary adjustments.
After comparing the groups’ results, the authors concluded that “Twelve weeks of Iyengar yoga produces clinically meaningful improvements in 24-hour systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure.”
The term systolic refers to the pressure of blood in the vessels when the heart beats. Diastolic refers to the pressure between beats. If a person has a blood pressure reading of, for example, 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), systolic pressure is the first number, and diastolic pressure is the second.—AFP
It is important to note that the study above included only 57 participants. Confirming these findings will require further research.
Impact of yoga and healthful lifestyle
In 2016, researchers published results of the Lifestyle Modification and Blood Pressure Study (LIMBS).
This was one of only a few randomized controlled trials to investigate whether yoga can reduce high blood pressure. Specifically, the study compared the effects of practicing Hatha yoga for 12 weeks with more standard approaches.
Researchers randomly divided the participants into the following groups:
Yoga: This group contained 43 people. They attended two 90-minute yoga classes each week for 12 weeks. Gradually, they also began to practice yoga at home, guided by DVD instruction.
Healthful living: This group contained 48 people. They followed a health education and walking program. It included classes in nutrition and motivational guidance, and participants gradually worked up to 180 minutes of walking per week.
Yoga and healthful living: This group contained 46 people. They attended the yoga classes and the health education and walking program, but they could opt out of home yoga.
The researchers concluded that all three approaches reduced resting blood pressure. In every participant, readings were lower at 12 weeks and 24 weeks than they had been at the start of the study.
At 12 weeks, the reduction in blood pressure was more significant in the group that did only yoga, compared to the group that followed the education and walking program.
Overall, drops in blood pressure were small, but even small reductions can benefit health.
The authors note that if systolic blood pressure drops by 2 mm Hg, this can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by 7 percent and reduce the risk of dying from a stroke by 10 percent.
Can yoga delay drug treatment?
In 2013, the American Heart Association (AHA) released a statement, calling for more research into whether lifestyle measures, such as yoga, can delay the need for drug-based treatment of high blood pressure.
The AHA published a review of trials, concluding that yoga may lower blood pressure by modest amounts.
However, the AHA acknowledged that the studies had been small-scale and that it is not yet possible to recommend yoga as a treatment for high blood pressure.
Still, the organization noted, yoga is unlikely to harm people with high blood pressure.
Yoga, exercise, and salt reduction
Brisk walking is good exercise for keeping the heart and blood pressure healthy.
A study from 2009 explored the effects of yoga, exercise, and dietary salt reduction in 102 participants with slightly elevated or high blood pressure.
The participants engaged in one of the following activities for a period of 8 weeks:
brisk walking for 50–60 minutes, 4 days per week
reducing salt intake by at least 50 percent
practicing yoga for 30–45 minutes at least 5 days per week
A fourth group, the control group, made no changes. All of the participants who engaged in lifestyle changes experienced a reduction in blood pressure, compared with the control group.
The results suggest that brisk walking, reducing salt intake, and practicing yoga can each benefit people with high blood pressure.