Aging often contributes to a decrease in physical activity. As age advances, a decrease in muscle mass, muscle strength, and flexibility can impair physical function. One obvious way to prevent these developments might be regular physical exercise.
This open-label, randomized trial was intended to evaluate the effects of an integrated yoga module in improving the flexibility, muscle strength, and quality of life (QOL) of older adults. Participants were 96 older adults, aged 60-75 years (64.1 ± 3.95 years). The program was a three-month, yoga-based lifestyle intervention. The participants were randomly allocated to the intervention group (n = 48) or to a waitlisted control group (n = 48). The intervention group underwent three one-hour sessions of yoga weekly, with each session including loosening exercises, asanas, pranayama, and meditation spanning.
At baseline and post-intervention, the following assessments were made:
- spinal flexibility using a sit-and-reach test,
- back and leg strength using a back leg dynamometer,
- handgrip strength (HGS) and endurance (HGE) using a hand-grip dynamometer,
- Older People’s Quality of Life (OPQOL) questionnaire.
Analysis was performed employing Wilcoxon’s Sign Rank tests and Mann-Whitney Tests, using an intention-to-treat approach.
The results show that, compared to the control group, the intervention group experienced a significantly greater increase in spinal flexibility (P < .001), back leg strength (P < .001), HGE (P < .01), and QOL (P < .001) after three months of yoga.
The authors concluded that yoga can be used safely for older adults to improve flexibility, strength, and functional QOL. Larger randomized controlled trials with an active control intervention are warranted.
I agree with the authors that this trial was too small and not properly controlled. I disagree that their study shows yoga to be effective or safe. In fact, the two sentences of the conclusion do not seem to fit together at all.
Is it surprising that doing yoga exercises is better than doing nothing at all?
Is it relevant to demonstrate this fact in an RCT?
If anyone wants to test the value of yoga exercises, they must compare them to conventional exercises. And why don’t they do this? Could it be because they know they would be unlikely to show that yoga is superior?