Hatha yoga improves cognitive performance in older adults

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Washington: A new study has claimed that 'hatha yoga' helps in increasing brain function amongst older adults.

According to the researchers, practicing hatha yoga three times a week for eight weeks improved sedentary older adults' performance on cognitive tasks that were relevant to everyday life.

The findings involved 108 adults between the ages of 55 and 79 years of age, 61 of whom attended hatha yoga classes. The others met for the same number and length of sessions and engaged in stretching and toning exercises instead of yoga.

At the end of the eight weeks, the yoga group was speedier and more accurate on tests of information recall, mental flexibility and task-switching than it had been before the intervention. The stretching-and-toning group saw no significant change in cognitive performance over time. The differences seen between the groups were not the result of differences in age, gender, social status or other demographic factors, the research team reported.

Hatha yoga is an ancient spiritual practice that involves meditation and focused breathing while an individual moves through a series of stylized postures, explained Neha Gothe, who led the study with University of Illinois professor Edward McAuley.

The studies suggest that yoga has an immediate quieting effect on the sympathetic nervous system and on the body's response to stress, she added.

The results of the study are only preliminary and involve a fairly short-term intervention, the researchers said. Further research is needed to confirm the results and reveal the underlying brain mechanisms at play. 

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