Can Yoga Improve Balance In Elderly Men?

January 16, 2024
Can Yoga Improve Balance In Elderly Men?

Yoga may improve both static and dynamic balance in elderly men

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

Does yoga improve balance in elderly men?

Type of Study

Randomized control trial with a pre-test, post-test design

Study Participants (Sample)

Sample size included 234 total participants

  • All participants were men
  • Median age: 72 ± 7.7 years

Methods

Researchers assigned participants to either a yoga group or a control group. All participants completed an overall health assessment and a balance assessment before and after the study period. The yoga group completed a 4-week yoga intervention during the study, while the control group participated in regular exercise classes.

Results

Yoga positively influenced body fat composition, muscle mass, emotional quality of life, and both static and dynamic balance in elderly men.

Conclusion

Yoga improved balance and other health measures in elderly men.

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Background

Good balance is one key to feeling confident when staying active for older people. Naturally, as we age, we experience challenges to our stability and dexterity. We get dryer, stiffer, have slower reflexes, and often experience changes to our gait. The combination of those things and other aging-related issues can lead to an increased likelihood of falling. And among older folks, a simple trip and fall incident can have serious consequences.

Fear of falling can lead older people to stop doing many activities and types of exercise. But regular movement is important, particularly in later life, for supporting and maintaining many aspects of physical health. Staying active is also important for mental health. Additionally, movement activities are one way we stay connected to our communities. Feeling confident in our balance is an important part of feeling safe and motivated to stay active.

One activity that has been linked to improving balance is yoga. However, many studies on yoga’s effects have only looked at its effects on women. So in the study we summarize here, a research team chose to examine yoga’s effects on balance in elderly men.

Research question

Does yoga improve balance in elderly men?

Research methods

A total of 234 men participated in this research study. Researchers randomly assigned participants to either a yoga treatment group or a control group. There were 122 participants in the yoga treatment group and 112 participants in the control group. The mean age of those in the yoga treatment group was 72.8±7.4 years. The mean age of those in the control group was 72.2±6.5 years.

Both groups participated in several pre-study measurements. Researchers assessed overall health with a medical assessment called an anamnesis, an assessment of body composition, and the RAND 36 Short Form Health Survey. They specifically assessed the pre-treatment balance of all participants using the Tinetti Balance Assessment Tool.

After the pre-treatment measurements were taken, the yoga treatment group participated in a 4-week yoga intervention. The system of yoga used was Yoga in Daily Life. The yoga intervention included in-person classes once per week for 90 minutes with an instructor. The yoga treatment group was divided into smaller groups of 10-12 participants for the weekly in-person classes. Each weekly in-person class also included a psychologically inspiring motto incorporated into the class. Additionally, the yoga treatment group received a sheet with instructions for a short (5-10 minutes) daily home yoga practice routine. The control group took their regular exercise class at their senior center.

Results

Yoga positively influenced body composition, quality of life, and balance in elderly men. Both body fat composition and muscle mass changed during the treatment period for the yoga group. Body fat decreased in the yoga group compared to pre-intervention measurements. However, body fat in the control group increased. Muscle mass increased in the yoga treatment group compared to pre-treatment measurements, but there was no change in muscle mass in the control group participants.

Aspects of health-related quality of life also changed positively for the yoga intervention group during the study period. The yoga group increased their ability for health-related self-care according to the RAND Health Survey. Additionally, in the yoga participant group, yoga practice was positively associated with changes in emotional well-being. Yoga participants improved RAND Health Survey scores indicating that emotional problems limited their activities less and distracted them from concentrating less.

The main interest of the research team, the influence of yoga on balance in elderly men, was positively affected. Both static and dynamic balance improved over the study period compared to pre-intervention measurements. Additionally, both types of balance improved in the yoga group when compared to the control group.

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Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

The physical benefits are one thing that draws practitioners to yoga. Although the physical experience is only one aspect of yoga, our physical health is also intimately related to our mental health. And that may be especially true as we age. Tools like yoga can help us maintain functional movement in our older years. Feeling confident in aspects of our functional movement, like our balance, can support positive mental health by making it more likely that we stay engaged in activities and with our community. And, although yoga may currently attract more women than men, it has the potential to benefit everyone.

Conclusion

Although aging is inevitable, we have some control over how we age. Staying engaged with activities that we enjoy is a critical part of maintaining both our mental and physical health. Feeling confident in our ability to move contributes to our likelihood that we’ll keep doing the things we love. And feeling confident in our balance is one part of that. Based on the research that we summarize here, a yoga practice may help elderly men maintain better balance in their later years.

Reference citation

Krejci, M., R. Psotta, M. Hill, J. Kajzar, D. Jandova, and V. Hosek. 2020. A short-term yoga-based intervention improves balance control, body composition, and some aspects of mental health in the elderly men. Acta Gymnica. 50(1):16-27.