Yoga prevents falls?

October 20, 2008 8:32:15 AM PDT
Could the ancient practice of yoga protect the elderly against a modern-day health risk? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the leading cause of injury death for people ages 65 and older. Among seniors, falls are the underlying cause of a large proportion of fatal traumatic brain injuries. Between 1989 and 1998, the fall-induced traumatic brain injury death rate in people ages 80 and older increased by 60 percent. Older adults who have fallen previously or who stumble frequently are two to three times more likely to fall within the next year. At least 95 percent of hip fractures among older adults are caused by falls, and fall-related death rates and hip fracture hospitalization rates are on the rise.

RISK FACTORS: Certain risk factors may increase your chances of falling. These include:

  • Being female
  • Being white
  • Having had a previous fall
  • Having lower body weakness or other physical limitations
  • Having vision problems or having more than one chronic disease
  • Wearing shoes with thick, soft soles
  • Taking more than four medications or using psychoactive medications
  • Being cognitively impaired
  • CAN YOGA HELP? Researchers from the School of Podiatric Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia examined the gait and postural stability of 24 elderly females who were enrolled in an Iyengar yoga program specifically designed for people over age 65. Iyengar yoga is a specific form of the exercise that uses chairs and other props for body placement. At the end of the nine-week program, participants had a faster stride, increased flexibility in the lower extremities and an improved single-leg stance. The women also reported an increase in confidence in walking and balance. Experts also noticed a pronounced difference in how pressure was distributed on the bottom of the foot, which helps maintain balance. Jinsup Song, D.P.M., Ph.D., Director of the Gait Study Center at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine, says, "People are gaining more confidence as they stand and walk at the end of the yoga intervention. People are more aware of their body posture. It [yoga] opens up a whole range of treatment options we didn't think we had before." Researchers say this preliminary study will pave the way for a larger study on how yoga may affect the function of the foot to improve balance and stability, and prevent falls.

    For More Information, Contact:

    Emilie Zoltick
    Research Coordinator
    Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine
    Philadelphia, PA
    (215) 625-5365
    ezoltick@tuspm.temple.edu


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