Women 65 and older can improve their fitness through yoga classes, according to a small, preliminary study. Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia studied 24 older women to see if a nine-week modified Iyengar program would produce benefits. Presenting at a recent meeting, they reported a variety of gains. Participants' average gait speed went from 1.04 to 1.09 meters per second, and stride lengths went from 1.11 meters to 1.16 meters on the left foot and from 1.12 to 1.16 meters on the right.
Participants saw an improvement in range of motion in their hip flexors, ankles and big-toe joints. They were also able to stand longer on their right leg - 18.7 seconds before the program, and 23.1 seconds after. (Little difference was seen on the left side). Body weight was better distributed on the subjects' feet - and they even stood 1 centimeter taller.
"Yoga, in the right training environment, can be beneficial," says study lead author Dr. Jinsup Song, director of the Gait Study Center at Temple University's School of Podiatric Medicine. Improvement in the single-leg stand may aid balance, Song adds. "This might be good to continue to investigate - if yoga is an appropriate intervention for minimizing the risk of falling."