How yoga benefits seniors

Seniors are faced with physical and mental challenges every day. Fortunately, senior fitness and nutrition can help keep people healthier for longer. New types of fitness classes have popped up recently, but one type of exercise that has been gaining support and momentum for years is yoga. If you’re not familiar with yoga, you may know it as exercises that involve stretching and breathing, but the health benefits are greater than you probably realize, particularly for seniors.

Senior fitness benefits

  • Balance: Many positions and poses in yoga are geared toward enhancing balance. A major risk for seniors is falling as a result of loss of balance. With better stability from yoga, seniors may be less likely to fall and injure themselves.
  • Flexibility: Millions of Americans lose flexibility from living a sedentary lifestyle. Yoga can improve the flexibility of muscles and joints, which can relieve arthritis aches and back pain. Better flexibility helps you in a variety of fashions, but most importantly can protect against falls along with improved balance.
  • Strength: Muscle weakness is a common complaint among seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strength training is an important part of a regular fitness routine and safe for people of all ages. Strength training may actually be the most beneficial for those who suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, obesity or back pain. While it may seem counterintuitive to start strength training if your joints are stiff, the physical activity can actually ease discomfort over time. Even if you are new to strength training exercises, yoga is a good way to ease into building up your muscles.

In addition to fitness benefits, yoga can extend into other areas of life both physically and mentally.

If you are among the millions of Americans who suffer from sleep problems, yoga may help you relax and get to bed easier. Not getting enough sleep can leave you groggy, irritable and may even play a role in failure to maintain a healthy body weight. Whether you have trouble falling asleep or find yourself waking up throughout the night, yoga has been shown to be helpful for seniors to get a full night’s rest. Yoga involves breathing techniques and relaxation components that may make it easier to sleep through the night, studies have found. Those who exercise regularly may also find that physical activity helps them relax at night and sleep better.

Blood pressure
Studies have shown that doing yoga regularly can lower blood pressure. While not everyone has high blood pressure, it is a serious medical condition that can lead to an array of other health complications, including heart disease, kidney failure and stroke. While there are often no symptoms of high blood pressure, one in three adults in the U.S. will have high blood pressure at some point in their lives, according to the National Institutes of Health. Blood pressure can rise as we age, but it is easily combated with a healthy lifestyle, reduced salt intake and plenty of physical activity.

Yoga works to lower blood pressure in a few ways through both physical and mental benefits. Increasing flexibility and strength can help improve circulation throughout your body and reduce stiffness in the arteries. Additionally, yoga has been known to reduce stress, especially for those who suffer from chronic stress. Practicing yoga can bring feelings of relaxation, which may lower blood pressure.

Yoga for seniors
There are various levels of yoga that anyone can try, but seniors may need to take certain precautions before jumping into a class. More advanced yoga may involve positions that are uncomfortable and can cause injury if a person is not flexible or strong enough. To avoid injury, it is best to start off slowly and work your way up. The same goes for any type of exercise, not just yoga. It can also be a good idea to check with your doctor before embarking on any new activities. If you are looking to try yoga, consider searching for a senior or beginner class that moves at an introductory pace. With all the mental and physical benefits of the activity, there’s no reason not to try it.

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