Date of Award

5-3-2019

Degree Type

Report

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Kinesiology and Health Science

First Advisor

David Bolton

Second Advisor

Eadric Bressel

Third Advisor

Brennan Thompson

Abstract

Research into successful aging has shown that the ability to control balance is a key part of maintaining an independent lifestyle. Given the increased proportion of older adults in society, the development of effective strategies to promote successful aging are critical. One promising form of activity that could effectively sustain and/or improve balance in addition to other health markers is yoga. Although studies have been done showing yoga's benefits on mobility, mood and cognition the vast majority of these studies lack scientific rigor. The main purpose of this thesis project was to examine the efficacy of a 6-week yoga intervention in improving reactive balance in older adults. This study is one part of a larger intervention study that investigated changes in cognitive function and muscle strength in addition to balance. Thirteen older adults were randomized into a yoga intervention group (n=7) or a control group (n=6). Subjects in the yoga group participated in hour long classes, twice per week for six weeks. Each yoga class incorporate seated, standing and lying down poses along with breathwork and meditation. Subjects in the control group completed hour long sessions of computer-based cognitive training twice per week for six weeks. Reactive balance was tested using a custom lean and release device both before and after the intervention. Balance performance was measured as: (a) muscle onset time in the stepping leg, when a forward step was required to recover balance, and (b) stepping errors (i.e. taking a step when the leg was blocked). No statistically significant effects were noted between groups on response time (p = 0.447) nor error rate (p = 0.622). However, the low sample size likely compromises our ability to make definitive conclusions. This study is an early attempt to get very focused measures to evaluate yoga, using a balance task that emphasized heightened cognitive demand. With this study we were able to demonstrate the feasibility of using yoga as an intervention and provide insight for future studies looking at the potential effects of yoga on reactive balance in older adults.

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