March 10, 2009

Yoga helps elderly reduce fear of falling

Indiana University researchers found older U.S. adults who took a weekly hatha yoga class reported a reduced fear of falling.

Marieke Van Puymbroeck of Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation said after a 12-week, twice weekly hatha yoga class, taught by a professional yoga therapist, study participants reported a reduced fear of falling, increased lower body flexibility and a reduction in their leisure constraints.

Fear of falling is an important public health concern because it can cause older adults -- even those who have not fallen -- to limit their social and physical activity. This effort to avoid falls can create a harmful cycle that can diminish health and quality of life, Puymbroeck said.

Van Puymbroeck said the study involved 14 men and women with an average age of 78. Five participants had fallen previously. The group had a 90 percent weekly attendance rate and a 6 percent dropout rate, for the twice a week classes that lasted 60 minutes each.

After the 12-week class, participants reported a 6 percent reduction in their fear of falling, a 34 percent increase in lower body flexibility, and a statistically significant reduction in leisure constraints.

The findings are to be presented at conferences hosted by the American Geriatrics Society and the American Therapeutic Recreation Association.