Yoga for over-65s poses question for NHS

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It has been a staple of afternoon TV for the over-60s for decades, and its teachings date back centuries, but a new study might finally see yoga funded by the NHS as a clinical treatment.

Researchers in York and Newcastle are investigating the benefits of a specially-adapted programme for older people with long-term health conditions.

The results of their study will be handed to healthcare commissioners deciding whether to make yoga available on the NHS.

The £1.4m study, funded by the National Institute of Health Research, is recruiting nearly 600 adults aged 65 and over, from across the UK, to the Gentle Years programme run by the British Wheel of Yoga.

Helen Tilbrook, trial manager at the University of York, said participants performing common yoga poses at weekly sessions would be assessed after three, six and 12 months to monitor changes to their quality of life.

The researchers will also review any changes in their levels of anxiety, and whether the exercises make them less prone to falls.

Prof Garry Tew, of Northumbria University, said: “Yoga is thought to bring wide-ranging benefits, such as increases in strength, flexibility, balance and quality of life, and reductions in stress, anxiety and depression.

“In older adults specifically, there is promising evidence that yoga can improve physical function and quality of life, but more work is needed to understand the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of yoga in older people.”

He added: “Results of an earlier pilot trial demonstrated not only the benefits of exercise, but that yoga classes helped reduce feelings of isolation.”