Researchers at Florida Atlantic University report that chair yoga can be an effective treatment for people suffering from osteoarthritis pain (Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, online Dec. 23, 2016). Many older people with significant hip, knee or ankle pain from arthritis might be reluctant to try yoga. Frequently, people experiencing pain find exercise challenging, even though moving joints and keeping muscles strong help people with arthritis do better over the long term.
Studying Chair Yoga as a Treatment for Arthritis:
The randomized controlled trial included 131 older adults with hip, knee, foot or ankle arthritis. Half attended health education sessions to serve as a control group. The other half attended chair yoga sessions twice a week for eight weeks. Both types of sessions lasted 45 minutes each time.
What Were the Effects of Chair Yoga?
The volunteers who did yoga poses while seated had a greater reduction in pain and improvement in measures of quality of life compared to those in the health education group. Older people can stay active with chair yoga even if their balance is compromised. Many find this more difficult with traditional yoga, either standing or on the floor.
Frail, Elderly People Benefit from Yoga Practice:
Most people don’t imagine frail elderly people doing yoga, but a meta-analysis indicates that we should. A systematic review of 33 randomized controlled trials found that older adults have stronger legs and walk better after practicing yoga (Annals of Internal Medicine, March 14, 2023). Results on better balance, which could help reduce falls among frail elders, were less clear.
If you are interested in other non-drug approaches to reducing arthritis pain in addition to yoga practice, you may wish to consult our online resource, Alternatives for Arthritis.