You don’t have to be an acrobat to heal your body with yoga.

Sitting in a chair or using a chair for support while doing yoga could have plenty of benefits for older adults, according to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers say after an eight-week program, the exercise reduced pain and fatigue and improved walking speed in seniors who could not do standing exercises because of osteoarthritis in the joints of their lower extremities. And up to three months after the program ended, the seniors were still seeing reduced pain interference, which is how much pain impedes other aspects of a person’s life, such as social activities. Those results were compared to a group of seniors who took part in a health education program, rather than the 45-minute chair yoga sessions twice a week.

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“Chair yoga should be further explored as a nonpharmacologic intervention,” the study says, for people who have arthritis in their hips, knees, ankles or feet.

According to a statement from Florida Atlantic University, exercise like yoga eases pain from osteoarthritis, but as people get older, they may not be able to participate in those physical activities.

“Many older adults cannot participate in standing exercises because of lack of muscle strength, pain and balance as well as the fear of falling due to impaired balance,” the university said. “Chair yoga is practiced sitting in a chair or standing while holding the chair for support, and is well suited to older adults who cannot participate in standing yoga or exercise.”

Osteoarthritis is common among older adults, but there is no cure for the degenerative joint condition. That means new treatments could potentially benefit millions of people.

“The potential impact of this study on public health is high, as this program provides an approach for keeping community-dwelling elders active even when they cannot participate in traditional exercise that challenges their balance,” researcher Patricia Liehr, a professor in FAU’s College of Nursing, said in the statement.

Source: Park J, McCaffrey R, Newman D, Liehr P and Ouslander JG. A Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Chair Yoga on Pain and Physical Function Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults With Lower Extremity Osteoarthritis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2017.

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