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Harvard-led study: Yoga fights frailty

June 1, 2023By Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

  • Reviewed by Anthony L. Komaroff, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

The older we get, the more common frailty becomes. It's a loss of function, strength, stamina, and overall health and fitness that increases the risk of falls, hospitalizations, and early death. But a review of 33 randomized controlled trials, published online March 14, 2023, by Annals of Internal Medicine, found that yoga may offer some protection against frailty. The trials involved a total of almost 2,400 people ages 65 or older. Research teams from Harvard and elsewhere found that people who practiced yoga improved two markers of frailty — walking speed and the ability to get up from a chair — compared with people who didn't practice yoga. Many of the studies focused on the benefits of chair-based yoga. The frequency and length of yoga sessions varied. (Generally, two or three one-hour sessions per week are recommended for good health). Researchers note that yoga can be practiced at home with exercises tailored to your abilities or limitations. If you already have a regular exercise routine, such as walking and strength training, consider adding yoga into the mix for the extra benefits it may provide. You can take a class at a local YMCA, senior center, or yoga studio, or try it at home (find videos on YouTube by searching for "yoga for older adults," "chair yoga," or "yoga for seniors"). Image: © adamkaz/Getty Images

About the Author Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter Heidi Godman is the executive editor of the Harvard Health Letter. Before coming to the Health Letter, she was an award-winning television news anchor and medical reporter for 25 years. Heidi was named a journalism fellow … See Full Bio View all posts by Heidi Godman

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