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Yoga Aids In Stroke Rehabilitation And Other Aspects Of Senior Health

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Low impact exercises like yoga can help older adults improve and maintain their mobility, which may help reduce the risk of falling. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three individuals over 65 experiences a fall each year, and this is the most common cause of accident-related injury among seniors. Those who have suffered a stroke may have a higher risk for falling, as the event can leave a person with reduced motor function ability. A recent study published in the journal Stroke found group yoga can help restore a stroke victim's motor function.

Researchers divided 47 older adults (75 percent male) into three groups and studied them over the course of eight weeks. The first group met twice a week for group yoga, the second group also attended group yoga twice a week but were also instructed to listen to relaxation sounds at least three times a week. The third group did not go to yoga or receive any medical attention, including rehabilitation therapy, during the study.

"For patients like those in our study, natural recovery and acute rehabilitation therapy typically ends after six or, less frequently, 12 months," said lead study investigator Arlene Schmid, a rehabilitation research scientists with the Center of Excellence on Implementing Evidence-Based Practice at the Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center and assistant professor of occupational therapy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. "We found that yoga exercises significantly extended rehabilitation beyond the first year after stroke."

By the end of the study, the groups that participated in yoga saw significant improvements in balance. The researchers noted that as the weeks progressed, the yoga attendees grew more confident in trying new, more challenging poses. Not only did the exercise help improve mobility, it also worked to diminish fears of falling. The researchers have previously found that these fears can lead older adults to become less active, which will only increase their risk of falls.

This exercise can also be an ideal form of elder care for those who have not suffered a stroke. Yoga improves flexibility and muscle strength, and can also be an effective method of dealing with stress or other emotions. It can also lower blood pressure, help combat fatigue and treat other risk factors for having a stroke and developing illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

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