UW Madison: Yoga reduces falls
11/2/2017

DODGEVILLE, Wisconsin - People who do hatha yoga report improved balance, but only now has yoga's impact on falls received rigorous study.

Now, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of family medicine Irene Hamrick reports that the number of falls in older adults dropped 48 percent in the six months after yoga classes began, compared to the six months previous.

The study, now online in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, looked at older, rural adults who attended yoga classes in Western Wisconsin.

Hatha yoga is a series of poses that can be performed on the floor or standing. They are intended to improve flexibility, mood and presence of mind. The practice originated in India and usually includes a period of meditation.

Hamrick, Paul Smith, also a UW-Madison professor of family medicine, Nate Christopher, a physical therapist at Southwest Health in Platteville, and yoga instructor Paul Mross of Belleville started with a needs assessment to evaluate receptivity to various formats of yoga classes.

The 38 study participants attended biweekly classes for eight weeks in Dodgeville, Platteville and Monroe.

Among people aged 65 and up, falls are the leading cause of injury death, and the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital trauma admissions. Thirty percent of this age group has a fall each year; the rate rises to 50 percent by age 80.

The average participant in the study was 70 years old, well within the risk zone. In the six months before the yoga classes began, 15 participants reported 27 falls. In the six months following the start of classes, 13 people reported 14 falls, a statistically significant reduction.

All participants took twice-weekly yoga classes for 8 weeks, and were assigned to do five minutes of meditation at home; half were also randomly assigned to add in 10 minutes of yoga to the meditation. Curiously, the expected improvement in falls from this "homework" did not happen, Hamrick says: Both groups had an equal and significant reduction in falls.

That surprising result may show that the in-class practice alone was enough to reinforcing the critical connection between nerves and muscles, says Hamrick. "It might be that this does not take that much practice; once you learn it, it's yours to keep."

"Yoga makes you have a strong core," says Anne Bachner, a member of the study's community advisory board, "so when moving around in your daily life, you are not just flapping around. You are stable, in control."

See more: https://news.wisc.edu/study-yoga-reduces-falls-among-the-elderly/


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