Researchers uncover benefits of yoga for healthy ageing

Participation in yoga programs can improve balance, provide a safe and enjoyable form of exercise and may reduce the risk of falls for older Australians, researchers say.

Researchers from The George Institute for Global Health, Australia have found that yoga can have a positive impact on the balance and physical mobility of people aged over 60. A summary of  the results of published trials provides preliminary evidence that yoga may be effective in reducing the risk of falls and promoting independence in older age.

Dr Anne Tiedemann of The George Institute and the University of Sydney says that attracting older Australians to take part in exercise programs that boost their balance is a challenge, and that yoga may be part of the solution.

“Yoga programs could be implemented to compliment other effective balance programs like Tai Chi, to encourage older Australians to have an ongoing exercise regime that improves their quality of life.

“Our research has found that overall yoga programs were safe for older people to take part in and resulted in improvements in key activities such as standing on one leg, standing up from a seated position and walking.

“One third of community-dwelling adults fall annually, often resulting in serious injury, long term disability and extended hospital stays. Further research is now needed to determine if yoga-related improvements in balance and mobility translate to prevention of falls for older people.

“Falls affect one million older Australians every year and poor balance and mobility are closely linked with a higher risk of falls.

“This a major public health problem that needs to be urgently addressed as the proportion of older people in the population is rapidly rising.”

By 2050 up to 25% of the Australian population (10.5 million people) will be aged 65 years and over. If fall rates remain the same, by 2050, around 2.7 million older Australians will fall annually, with a predicted health system cost of $1.4 billion a year.

The research was published in the journal Age and Ageing