You’ve probably heard that yoga is an amazingly healthy form of exercise more times than you care to recall. But did you know that yoga can have particular benefits for seniors? In fact, both the physical and mental benefits of yoga can improve the quality of life for seniors and even help with physical and mental issues that seniors commonly struggle with.
Although some forms of yoga can be strenuous, others can be adapted to anyone’s ability level. So whether you’re a senior yourself or have a loved one who’s aging, but is still healthy enough to be at home and exercise, yoga may be able to help in a lot of ways. Here are some of the benefits of yoga for seniors.
1. Arthritis Management
Osteoarthritis (the common variety of arthritis, which causes inflamed and painful joints) affects many seniors. Around 70% of people develop some degree of arthritis by the time they’re 65 years old, so this is a common, although not completely universal, issue for older adults.
While some forms of yoga can be strenuous, gentler forms can be distinctly helpful for arthritis sufferers. Key arthritis symptoms include joint malfunctions such as pain and stiffness, and yoga is world-renowned for its ability to improve joint function and range of motion. Studies performed on yoga for arthritis patients have confirmed these benefits.
For best results, an arthritis patient should start out very slowly, perhaps in a beginning yoga class or one geared towards seniors. Many types of yoga exist, and some of the more vigorous, strenuous types of yoga may not be suitable for an arthritis patient.
2. Fall Prevention
Falls are a constant danger for any senior who lives at home, especially if they live alone. While nothing can reasonably prevent all falls 100% of the time, yoga can have definite benefits in fall reduction and prevention. One reason for this benefit is because yoga, like any other appropriate form of exercise, can help to keep up strength in the muscles used for balance.
Yoga can also target balancing abilities directly. One reason is that many yoga poses intentionally include balancing. Another is that falls often stem partially from a loss of postural awareness, and a yoga practice works on postural awareness (after all, the basic units of yoga are called “poses” and each one focuses on maintaining a particular posture).
One caveat is that if you try balancing poses far beyond your skill level you could be more likely to fall, not less. But if you work out gradually and carefully, yoga can help improve your balance by a great deal, while also helping other useful fall-prevention factors such as muscle strength and flexibility.
3. Dementia and Alzheimer’s Prevention
Both physical exercise and mental activity are recommended for anyone who wants to avoid dementia and Alzheimer’s. Yoga can play a dual role by providing both of these factors. The physical poses promote exercise while the meditation aspect helps train the mind to focus. In fact, studies show that yoga can improve a person’s visual-spatial memory, which reduces the risk of memory problems.
Falls can also be associated with cognitive issues if they result in head and brain trauma. This means the physical aspect of yoga, which improves balance and strength, can help preserve cognitive function. And the mental focus aspect, which can also help, may include factors such as body awareness, visualization, and mindfulness, depending on the type of yoga.
4. Mental Health Improvement
Another issue that yoga’s blend of physical and mental aspects can help is mental health. Anxiety and even depression can be quite common in older adults, and yoga can help manage or avoid these mental health issues. Yoga can provide a coping tool for those who suffer from mental health issues and can help reduce fatigue and even boost mood.
Whether your senior loved one needs help preparing for a yoga class or whether they simply need transportation to the location, Home Helpers can help. We offer personal care, companion services, and transportation services for seniors. Get in touch today to learn more.