Yoga is a complementary health discipline that originated in India in the fifth century and then spread to other parts of the world. Today, more than 13 million American adults practice yoga in the US, the National Center for Complementary Integrative Health (NCCIH) reports.
Moreover, yoga practitioners in the US increased from 5.1% in 2002 to 6.1% in 2007. With that in mind, here are some of the key benefits of yoga for people aged over 50:
Better Bone Health
Yoga can improve bone health, including bone density, substantially. This is according to a study carried out by Columbia University researchers and published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging. Some of the participants involved in this study were suffering from bone-related issues including osteoporosis. Surprisingly, those who performed yoga exercises regularly benefited from improvements in bone density, especially in the spine and femur. More importantly, the researchers said that none of the 741 participants had reported serious injuries or bone fractures throughout the 90,000 hours of yoga practice. As such, the lead researcher involved in this study, Dr. Loren M. Fishman says yoga is “safe, even for people who have suffered significant bone loss.” Nevertheless, Dr. Fishman warns that poor posture can cause spinal fractures, so people 50 years and older should adopt proper posture when performing yoga.
Yoga and Weight Loss
According to a study published by The American Journal of Managed Care, yoga can help obese and overweight people shed unwanted weight. More precisely, participants in this study registered significant weight loss over a period of six months while performing restorative yoga. To perform this type of yoga, you have to be either in a seated or reclined position. Moreover, restorative yoga poses can last up to seven minutes, thereby making them much longer than typical yoga poses. This finding is particularly important to seniors 50 years and older for several reasons. Firstly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people with a BMI of 30 or more (obese) may have a hard time starting to exercise due to physical mobility difficulties. Fortunately, yoga is much easier to perform and even so-called “fat yoga” classes have sprung up across the US. Secondly, yoga can be performed at home, which means seniors do not have to spend money joining expensive yoga studios.
Yoga and Ease Pain
A review of high-quality clinical studies carried out by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) found that yoga can ease arthritic knee pain, neck pain, headaches, and lower back pain. This is particularly important because joint, back, and neck pain are the most common types of pain experienced by adults in the US, states the research team involved in this review. Besides easing pain, this review of past studies found that yoga also enhances joint function, especially for individuals suffering from knee pain. In comparison, the researchers found that acupuncture could cause bruising and sometimes hurt while dietary supplements could cause gastrointestinal side effects. This means yoga is a better treatment option for seniors suffering from joint pain.
Reverse Chronic Pain Effects on the Brain
Besides easing pain, yoga can reverse the effects of chronic pain on the brain, according to the results of a study presented during the American Pain Society’s 2015 annual meeting. During this meeting, the scientific director at the NCCIH’s Division of Intramural Research, M. Catherine Bushnell, PhD, said people with chronic pain tend to experience elevated anxiety, cognitive function impairments, and depression. Sadly, this leads to changes in the integrity of the brain’s white matter as well as gray matter volume. Fortunately, yoga can prevent changes in brain anatomy caused by chronic pain. In fact, Bushnell said yoga has the opposite effect on the brain as chronic pain leading to an increase in gray matter. For seniors, deterioration of brain function can cause other health issues such as memory problems. Another study carried out by researchers at the University of California and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that yoga can improve cognitive function in people diagnosed with early stage dementia, which tends to affect seniors.
Although yoga is a complementary health practice dating back centuries, scientific studies have proven that it can benefit the elderly health wise. This includes enhancing bone health, easing pain, reversing chronic pain effects on the brain and enabling practitioners to lose unwanted weight.