A regular yoga practice could help improve balance in older stroke patients,… (Axel Koester / For the Los…)
Yoga is known for improving strength and flexibility, but it may also be good for improving the balance of older stroke patients.
Maintaining good balance is essential as people age, since falls can result in fractured and broken bones. Stroke victims can suffer an even greater loss of balance if one side of the body is stronger than the other, putting them at greater risk for falling.
The study involved 20 veterans (19 men and one woman), average age 66, who had had a stroke. They took part in twice-weekly yoga classes taught by a yoga therapist who modified the moves. Participants did poses first while seated in chairs, eventually progressing to doing poses from the floor and while standing.
The participants improved their stability on two balance measures by an average 17% and 34%. At the beginning of the study the test subjects averaged a score of 40 on the Berg Balance Scale, but by the end they scored an average 47; a score of 46 or below signifies a risk for falling. Endurance improved as well.
"It also was interesting to see how much the men liked it," said lead researcher Arlene Schmid in a news release. Schmid, a rehabilitation research scientist at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, added that many of the participants wanted to continue practicing yoga after the study ended.
The study was presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting this week in Denver.