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For healthy seniors, yoga offers no improvements in cognitive function.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The practice of yoga produced no significant effects on cognitive function in a randomized controlled trial involving healthy seniors, Dr. Barry Oken reported at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology.

On the plus side, yoga participants did experience significant quality of life benefits as measured by the Short Form-36. They also showed improvement in measures of physical function, but only on those measures directly related to their yoga postures, such as length of time able to stand on one leg. Whether such achievements have a practical impact upon patient health remains unclear, observed Dr. Oken of Oregon Health and Science University, Portland.

He reported on 135 healthy seniors randomized to a 26-week Hatha yoga gentle program for beginners, an aerobic exercise program, or a wait-list control arm.

The yoga classes, conducted by a certified lyengar instructor, met once weekly for 90 minutes; home practice was strongly encouraged. The aerobic exercise intervention consisted of a weekly group walking class led by an experienced personal trainer along with a personalized daily exercise prescription and use of a heart rate monitor.

The hypothesis was that yoga would improve general attentional abilities and alertness, perhaps directly through the practice's emphasis on body awareness and focused attention on breathing, as well as indirectly through salutary effects on mood and stress, the neurologist said.

The battery of cognitive tests completed at baseline and again after 26 weeks included the Stroop Color-Word Test, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale Letter-Number Sequence, First and Second Stanford Sleepiness Scales, Choice Reaction Time, and tests of delayed recall. Neither the yoga nor the aerobic exercise intervention produced significant effects on any of these measures.

The yoga intervention did, however, result in significant improvement on the bodily pain, vitality, social functioning, and role-physical subscales of the SF-36, resulting in a better physical composite score.

Neither of the other study arms showed any benefits in these quality of life measures.

The yoga program didn't result in any changes on the Profile of Mood States, nor did it enable participants to improve their timed quarter-mile walk.

The fact that neither yoga nor aerobic exercise produced cognitive benefits may be due to a ceiling effect, since this was a relatively healthy nonsedentary population, Dr. Oken noted.


Denver Bureau
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Title Annotation:Geriatrics
Author:Jancin, Bruce
Publication:Internal Medicine News
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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