Yoga to prevent falls in India

One of the world’s most ancient and widely enjoyed exercise could hold the key to preventing falls. Yoga combines different postures with breathing techniques and has long been promoted as an exercise with both health and psychological benefits.

Around 75% of fall injuries occur in low and middle-income countries, and is now recognised globally as a major cause of death and disability. In India, falls related injury is emerging as a public health issue. Research shows that a number of approaches can protect older people from falls, including exercise programs. Drawing from the falls and injury expertise at The George,  researchers are conducting a pilot study that will for the first time evaluate the benefits of yoga on falls in a low income setting.

Set in yoga’s country of origin, the pilot study will determine the feasibility, acceptability and sustainability of a three month yoga program in urban Hyderabad, India. This pilot will also provide oppurtunity to validate the method of measuring the incidence of falls in a population of older community dwelling people in urban India. The study will be conducted at two sites in Hyderabad, the Osmania Urban Health Clinic (UHC) and the University of Hyderabad. These two sites will enroll 50 participants each, administer yoga intervention as two, one-hour sessions per week for three months and collect data throughout the study. This pilot will be augmented by a brief qualitative assessment involving focus groups discussion and interviews with the study participants.

The research team are also examining yoga as a strategy for falls prevention in Australia, where falls affect around 1 million older people each year. The results of the pilot study in Hyderabad will inform a program of research in falls prevention in India and other settings where there is a large burden of falls injury and little preventive action. Yoga is likely to be a culturally acceptable mode for an exercise-based falls prevention program.

“The impact of a fall can be devastating. Many people experience serious injury, disability, loss of confidence and do become socially isolated. It’s vital that older people work on their balance through targeted exercise programs to prevent a fall and experiencing these serious outcomes”, said Dr Lisa Keay, Senior Research Fellow, The George Institute.