Yoga and Tai Chi for Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

Dear Maryellen,

I read your recent blog entry about Tai Chi being a great exercise for seniors. My seventy-plus-year-old mom is more interested in Yoga, though. I was wondering if there were similar benefits. -Andrea, Sands Point, NY

Dear Andrea,

In fact, there are many similar benefits between Yoga and Tai Chi. Yoga is not only an excellent way for elderly adults to improve strength and flexibility, but studies are showing it’s also good for improving overall balance — especially in older stroke patients. And, of course, it goes without saying how vital good balance is to seniors, which can help them avoid falls that can lead to fractures or broken bones.

Also, did you know the risk of falling increases when one side of the body is stronger than the other? Yoga is great for distributing and balancing strength across the body, as well. These findings arise from a study conducted with a group of individuals whose average age was 66. Each had suffered a stroke. Taking part in twice-weekly classes taught by a certified Yoga instructor — who modified the more difficult moves — participants demonstrated improved stability on two balance measures by an average of 17% and 34%. That’s a marked improvement. In fact, by the end of the study, subjects were scoring higher than standard threshold scores that are used to determine risk for falling. Their endurance improved as well.

The results of the study were recently presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting. Participants enjoyed the study so much, report researchers, that many went onto continuing the practice as part of their daily routine. Certainly consult with your mom’s physician first, Andrea, but Yoga might be just the thing to help her keep her form. Write back and let me know how it goes.

Maryellen McKeon

Source: Los Angeles Times Online; June, 2011

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