Benefits of Yoga to Combat Frailty

Staying physically active in older age is critical to maintaining muscle strength, flexibility, and balance. Seniors who participate in regular exercise can enjoy a better quality of life and can continue to participate in the activities they enjoy by preserving function, preventing falls, and protecting independence.  A recent Harvard-led study has found that a regular yoga practice can help offer seniors some protection against frailty. 

According to a recent Harvard Health Letter news brief, a review of 33 randomized controlled trials, published online by Annals of Internal Medicine found that yoga improved two markers of frailty among older adults – walking speed and the ability to get up from a chair.  The trials included nearly 2,400 adults over the age of 65; comparing seniors who practiced yoga and those who did not.  Many of the studies included chair yoga as well as more traditional practices. 

Researchers noted that generally two or three one-hour sessions per week were recommended for the greatest health benefits.  Yoga classes are often available at local seniors’ centers, yoga studios, and the YMCA, or can be found online.  Older adults are also advised to participate in a regular walking, cycling or swimming routine and strength training to preserve muscle mass.  Yoga also provides the added benefit of stress relief, combining physical movement with breathing exercises and visualization to calm the mind. 

Older adults have an increased risk of developing chronic disease, disability and frailty.  Frailty affects about 50 percent of seniors aged 80 and older and there is moderate evidence that a regular yoga practice can improve gait speed, lower body strength and endurance among elderly adults.  Yoga can also be tailored to meet the physical limitations of older adults while still providing health benefits. 

Visit SilverSneakers on Facebook to try a 20-minute chair yoga flow at home.