With heath problems on the rise, a rapidly aging population and the Baby Boomers closing in on 60, there is growing concern in our culture with health, fitness and the all-consuming question of how to age gracefully. Contrary to the popular notion that our golden years should be spent “taking it easy” and essentially withering away, the true key to aging gracefully is movement and exercise. As Sara Kooperman, CEO of SCW Fitness Education, and Lisa Ackerman point out, exercise is one of the most important activities we can do as we age. Yoga has immense benefits for seniors as it gets them moving and combats the aging process. On top of this, Yoga also has many health benefits making it a great choice for seniors looking for a way to keep healthy and active while having fun and learning new skills.
One of the great aspects about Yoga, which makes it unique, is that it’s more than just an exercise routine. Yoga promotes healthy values that can lead to a new way of looking at the world and interacting with our bodies. It advocates for a unity of mind, body and spirit. Thus, Yoga isn’t just concerned with our physical well-being but also works towards spiritual rejuvenation. Yoga relaxes the mind and gives us a much needed stress release and momentary calm in our stressful and busy lives. This holistic approach allows Yoga to affect not only our physical ailments but also our stress levels, anxiety and it can even help with sleep issues.
Another key advantage that is not readily available in other activities is Yoga’s attention to mindful breathing. Kooperman points out that as we age we tend to stop breathing fully. The breathing exercises that are an integral part of Yoga help remind us to take deep, full breaths. This also helps to maintain healthy ribcage flexibility, which can decrease with age. The focus on breath has more holistic advantages as well since it helps with relaxation and improves focus and concentration.
The health benefits of Yoga are enormous, especially for seniors. Leigh A. Milne, an IDEA member, yoga teacher and personal trainer, conducted a study to find the health benefits Yoga has on participants with an average age of 78. The study was a success and showed that the participants’ strength improved 25%, their function increased by 22% and their flexibility improved by 4%. Yoga can also improve balance and mobility, which decreases the risk of falling, welcome news to any senior.
On top of improving overall strength, function and flexibility, Yoga has also been proven to combat serious health issues such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain, breathing difficulties and can positively affect blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure. It has even been proven to help patients with carpal tunnel syndrome increase their grip strength. Regular participants of yoga have found that it not only helps them with weight loss but it also helps to combat the natural weight gain that occurs with age.
Yoga is one of the best things you can do for your body as you age. Not only has it been proven to help maintain good health as we age but its holistic approach has benefits too. Yoga is also easily modified to the participant’s level and strength so that no unnecessary strain is put on the body, which makes it a very manageable activity for any senior no matter their strength or flexibility level. On top of all these benefits, it’s also fun, making it the perfect activity for any health-conscious senior.