Yoga and Exercise Promote Healthy Aging for Seniors
It’s no secret that staying active is an essential part of healthy aging. However, due to declining health, mobility, and other factors, some older adults struggle to find a safe, effective, and enjoyable way to exercise.
Yoga can help older adults improve their balance, stamina, and flexibility — which may lead to a lower risk of falls and an improvement in overall health and wellness. In addition to improving physical condition and mobility through exercise, yoga also provides stress-reducing and mood-boosting benefits.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is a low-impact, mind-body exercise designed to be accessible to everyone. Millions of people of all ages and physical abilities practice yoga daily in all sorts of locations, including yoga studios, parks, or even in their living rooms and bedrooms.
Yoga focuses on improving strength, flexibility, and balance through controlled breathing techniques, meditation, relaxation, and physical poses. Yoga positions can be modified to meet anyone’s level of ability. Many seniors benefit from using props such as foam rollers to help them achieve poses. Additionally, chair yoga, which is done entirely seated, is an extremely accessible option.
Yoga also focuses on breathing and meditation while moving through poses. Many yoga sessions end with a period of relaxation or meditation. Controlling breathing and purposefully taking time to relax will help to relieve stress and improve mood.
What are the Benefits of Yoga for Seniors?
Mindfulness practices and regular exercise are some of the best tools people of all ages can use to improve and maintain their health and well-being. In older adults, mindfulness and appropriate exercise have been linked to physical and mental health benefits that promote healthy aging.
When practiced regularly, yoga offers the following physical and mental health benefits:
- Pain relief
Yoga is a great, low-impact exercise for improving flexibility and joint health and has been linked with reduced pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.
- Improved mobility and reduced fall risk
Yoga poses work to improve strength and balance throughout the whole body, reducing the risk of falls. Yoga also increases range of motion and improve foot health, which is incredibly important in reducing fall risk.
- Reduced chronic condition risk and better management
Research shows that yoga reduces risk factors for metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Yoga has also been linked to improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Practicing yoga regularly reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, assists with weight loss, and can even be used to improve respiratory health.
- Reduced anxiety and depression
As an exercise and a mindfulness practice, yoga encourages older adults to focus on their body, mind, and environment. Regularly practicing yoga can lead to an improved mood, help relieve anxiety, and lower the risk of depression. Yoga can even help older adults feel more energetic and increase their desire to be active.
How Can Older Adults Get Started with Yoga?
Getting started with yoga is easy, but it’s important to begin slowly and safely. Although most people can safely practice yoga, older adults should check with their doctor to find out if there are any poses or movements that they should avoid due to other health conditions.
Moving through poses incorrectly can lead to injuries or strains, so having a certified yoga instructor teach an older adult the proper way to practice yoga is vital. An instructor will also help seniors understand how to incorporate proper breathing and relaxation techniques. An instructor may also be able to recommend a particular style of yoga, specific poses, or modifications that would be best suited to individual preferences, abilities, and goals.
Senior centers, gyms, and some public facilities such as libraries may even host yoga classes geared specifically for older adults. Helpful resources are available online that may assist older adults with various techniques.
While many seniors enjoy practicing yoga in groups or with instructors, it is easy to practice yoga independently after grasping the basics. Some older adults attend yoga classes a few days a week and practice at home on “off” days, while others practice exclusively at home.
It’s never too late to work on healthy aging, and yoga is an excellent way to begin.