How Yoga Improves Balance in the Elderly

Alternative_Medicine2.jpgAmongst older adults aged 65 and over, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries and hospital admissions. It is estimated that at least one-third of adults above 65 experience serious falls in their lifetime. The cause of falls in the elderly is often multi-factorial, and no definite cause is ascertainable in the vast majority. Quite often balance system in-coordination is pointed out, but as an integrated system, balance relies on inputs from various sources: vision, cerebellar responses, joint senses and even basic spinal reflexes.

YogaA new study from Temple University’s Gait Study Center has found that Yoga helps with both balance and stability, and effectively reduces the chance of major falls in the elderly. Dr. Jinsup Song and his colleagues at the School of Podiatric Medicine and the College of Health Professions studied the effects of a specifically designed Iyengar Yoga program on 24 volunteers — women in the over-65 age group. After completing the nine week program, all participants reported a faster stride, an improvement in single leg stance and confidence in walking and balancing and improved flexibility in the lower limbs. In addition, participants became much better at how to redistribute pressure through the soles of their feet.

Some participants even reported improvement in their pain symptoms as a result of reduced stress on their arthritic joints. In addition, the study found that participants reported a more optimistic, focussed, goal-oriented view of life. For the elderly, this means a vastly improved confidence in balancing themselves and increasing their mobility, which in turn helps to prevent falls.

Perhaps this study elegantly demonstrates that falls in the elderly are often a result of disuse of their balance capabilities, which can be greatly enhanced through professional programs.


Song, J., Newton, R., Yun, J.S., Heilman, B., Zoltick, E. (2008). Gait Study Center. Gait and Clinical Movement Analysis Society Proceedings.

  • Julia Smith

    I just went to a Nurologesty yesterday—She said I need Therpy for my lost of balance–“I WALK LIKE A DRUNK jOHN WAYNE” i HAD CHRONIC fATIGUE SYS. I also a verybad wreck and during recovery I fell and hit that same place on my head—then the Balance.Problem===This neologist Still did not give me on test—she says I need therepy phycail. I MOVED FROM WHERE I HAd a good Dr.. Now in Texas Hill Country a internist—Looks aT me with a Bank stare “like I am Speaking A foriegin lanauge’ Now I wonder the Chonic Fatigue and Thr Fibro. or both on TV? Also I spent 260 dollars to get Med., info for my Dr. He said IT MUST BE PUT OUT buy a A DRUGE CO” IT WAS FROM THE CHRONic FATIGUE ASSCO?? What should I do? There is no help for me here. The DVD I gave this Dr. also gave Him points on his degree. How could The Fed.Gov, and my Dr, in NM know this Ilness,and treat it very well, THEN Drs in a State next door do not understand this illness. I recive my SS, on Disableaty, monthly Because the U.S. GOV. understandes this Illness===What is happening? I am stuck her with no med. help. Next door in NM I could get all the help I need. Very confusing–no help on what to do?/ Can You the balance problen and the ilness are not goining away?

  • Julia Smith

    I am just trying to say—What is wrong with our Medical Comumity?? How many others are paying for very bad advice—Or “plain old blank stares”.. I am thinking the Drug==Legal and illegal are hurting our changes of ever getting relive from pain- very sad–I am having to teach my=self natural meds–and am scared of that?–but some relife is better than none. Why is the MEDICAL Comuinty SO MIXED UP+++THOSE OF US THAT ARE VERY ILL, GET NO HELP__—–Because of people using drugs illealey. Both perscibed and others. I know I am one of millions that are fighting this very sad, and painful fight ” NOTHING WRONG WITH-YOU__JUST IN PAIN 24=7=BUT I CAN”T HELP YOU, YoU MIGHT BECOME ADICTED” ” OH THAT is better! YES! I well just Hurt real bad–and get no help–because–others abuse drugs===Oh I thought Drs gave drugs to help,– then montior– and check with -stool saliva, urin, and blood test?? The Dr. I have right Now—Has never given ME One Test—- in over a year??? I guess it is because I HAVE BEEN TOLD BY 4 DIFFERENT DRs, IN N.M., AND THE US Gov.——-So that proves it They are ALL WRONG—could not be these Great Drs. HERE, NO It is everyone ELSE!

  • Apart from the physical benefits of exercising Yoga, I think one should not forget about the mind-body connection. Yoga is able to improve our general condition, i.e., our mental wellbeing, as well as our physical health. And this, in turn, must improve our balance ,sense of stability, and strength.

Sudip Ghosh, MD

Sudip Ghosh, MD, is a surgeon at the University of Manchester, UK and a medical writer.

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