Chair yoga may help improve quality of life in older adults with moderate-to-severe dementia, according to a new study by Florida Atlantic University (FAU).
Chair yoga provides a safe environment for stretching, strengthening and flexibility while decreasing the risk of falls by using a chair. It also provides important breathing and relaxation techniques through stationary poses and guided relaxation of various muscle groups.
“We think that the physical poses we used in the chair yoga and chair-based exercise groups were an important factor in improving quality of life for the participants in our study,” said Juyoung Park, Ph.D., lead author and an associate professor in the Phyllis and Harvey Sandler School of Social Work within FAU’s College for Design and Social Inquiry.
“It is fascinating that, although some participants showed mild levels of agitation or wandering in the intervention room prior to the yoga session, they became calm and attentive when the yoga interventionist started demonstrating yoga poses.”
“Although they did not understand the interventionist’s verbal instructions due to their cognitive impairment associated with advanced dementia, they followed the instructor’s poses.”
For the study, published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias, researchers from FAU compared chair yoga with two other types of non-pharmacological interventions: chair-based exercise and music intervention.
The study involved older adults (mean average age was 84 years old) with moderate-to-severe dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease (the largest diagnostic group), Lewy Body dementia and Parkinson disease dementia. The patients were unable to participate in regular exercise or standing yoga due to cognitive impairment, problems with balance, or fear of falling.
Participants in each of the three groups attended 45-minute sessions twice a week for 12 weeks. Researchers collected data at baseline, after six weeks and after completing the 12-week intervention.
Results showed that participants with moderate-to-severe dementia could safely adhere to non-pharmacological interventions, and more than 97% of the participants fully engaged in each session.
The findings show that those in the chair yoga group improved significantly in quality-of-life scores compared to the music intervention group. Both the chair yoga and chair-exercise groups showed improvement over time, while the music intervention group declined.
In addition, both the chair yoga and chair-based exercise groups showed lower depression across all three time points when compared to the music intervention group.
The team did not find any differences in the three intervention groups on physical function, with the exception of handgrip strength, which was higher in the chair yoga group compared to the music intervention group. None of the three groups declined significantly in any of the investigated physical functional measures.
Researchers also did not find any significant between-group differences in anxiety at any time point. There were no significant between-group differences in change in depression and anxiety. The researchers also did not find significant differences among the three intervention groups for sleep quality at any of the three time points.
“We did see an increase in agitation in the chair yoga group even though this group reported a higher quality of life score, including physical condition, mood, functional abilities, interpersonal relationships, ability to participate in meaningful activities, and final situations,” said Park.
“It’s important to note that quality of life is a more comprehensive approach to biopsychosocial and behavioral function than a mere measure of agitation. Meditation and the mind-body connection component of the chair yoga program may have increased quality of life for participants in this study. This finding is consistent with our earlier studies that showed a targeted approach was successful in increasing quality of life in patients with dementia.”
Source: Florida Atlantic University