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Yoga for Osteoporosis - Focus on Fracture Prevention
Can yoga reduce the risk of osteoporotic fractures by reducing fall risk? Indeed, a growing body of research shows that yoga can improve balance. Now, a new study finds that practicing yoga can also reduce the risk of falling.
Falling becomes an increasing risk as we age, affecting 30% of people over age 65 years and 50% for those over 80. For people with osteoporosis, falls are particularly troublesome, as most osteoporotic fractures are caused by a fall.
In fact, a growing number of researchers believe that the emphasis in osteoporosis prevention should be shifted from focusing on building bone mass to efforts to prevent falls. And indeed, efforts to build balance and proprioception have shown great promise for preventing fall.
Study Shows Yoga Prevents Falls for Older Adults
A study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine, examined older, rural, adults attending Hatha Yoga classes and the effect it had on their incidence of falling.
The 38 study participants (average age of 70 years old), attended Hatha Yoga classes biweekly for 8 weeks. All of the participants were assigned “homework” of doing five minutes of meditation at home; half of them were also randomly assigned to do an additional 10 minutes of yoga.
Researchers compared participants’ incidence of falling during the six months prior to and the six months following the start of yoga classes and found that the number of falls in older adults dropped 48 percent in the six months after yoga classes began.
There was no significant difference between the group that did and didn’t do additional “homework” yoga. Lead researcher, Irene Hamrick, has a theory why: “We have always harped on practice, along the lines of what we suggest for building muscles. But maybe the brain-nerve-muscle connection that is built in classes just needs to be stimulated periodically, and the classes are enough to do that.”
While the study was small, the results are very promising: falls are the primary cause of injury death in adults 65+, as well as the most common cause of nonfatal injuries and hospital admissions for trauma, and yoga can have a sizable impact on the preventing falls.
Yoga for Older Adults in Rural Areas
One additional noteworthy aspect of this yoga study was that it was done in a rural area of Western Wisconsin; there have only been a handful of studies addressing yoga practice in rural demographics. A yoga therapy workforce survey found that, yoga therapists were less likely to work in rural settings. This could be a contributing factor to why this underserved population isn’t taking advantage of the many therapeutic benefits of yoga in the way that more urban centers are.
As the Baby Boomer generation matures, rural areas in particular see an increased number of older adults at greater risk of falling. Hopefully the results from this yoga study pave the way for increased interest in yoga and increased accessibility to it for older adults living in rural areas.