[OM POWER] Yoga may prevent frailty in older adults
To investigate whether the mind-body power of yoga can improve frailty, which is estimated to affect up to half of individuals over age 80, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and colleagues recently reviewed randomized controlled studies of yoga that included a total of 2,384 participants over 65. Their findings suggest that yoga boosts essential physical capabilities, such as walking speed and the ability to rise from a chair, which are associated with reduced frailty and increased lifespan.
The authors reviewed studies that reported how yoga affected individual metrics of frailty, including gait or walking speed, balance, handgrip strength, lower extremity strength and endurance, and various multicomponent physical performance measures.
Across the 33 randomized controlled studies in the review, improved walking speed was found to have the strongest association with a yoga intervention compared to control groups who were inactive or who received educational interventions. The authors emphasized the clinical importance of this finding, given prior research showing that slower walking speeds are connected to higher risk of death in older adults.
Similarly, the authors were encouraged by the finding that yoga may improve leg strength, which affects daily activities like rising from a chair or bed. There was less evidence that yoga improved balance; however, some of the yoga practices in the reviewed studies were chair-based, and therefore may not have offered the same benefit to balance as standing poses. Handgrip strength, another metric of frailty, was not found to improve with yoga practice. Yoga was also not shown to offer benefits for frailty that extend beyond those associated with exercise or other mind-body practices like tai chi.
Overall, the findings suggest that Iyengar-based styles of practice, which are customizable and amenable to the use of props, may be especially effective for frailty prevention.
To read the abstract of the study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, click here
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