Simple yoga moves may prevent falls

April 8, 2008 10:02:25 AM PDT
We've all heard stories... Or maybe have an older parent... Who has fallen and gotten seriously hurt. It's especially a risk with older women. But a Philadelphia research team may have a simple, inexpensive way to prevent these injuries.

Maryann Brown, of West Philadelphia, recalls, "I had some falls and balance problems."

Brown, a former school teacher, knew she was headed for a serious injury if she didn't do something about her balance.

So she signed up for a study at Temple University's School of Podiatric Medicine.

The goal - could simple yoga exercises make older women more stable on their feet.

"Lift your chest, press down on the heels and soles of your feet," says Marian Garfinkel, Ed.D., an expert in the Iyengar form of yoga, which emphasizes precise postures.

Dr. Garfinkel says, "When people fall, it's truly a lack of confidence, and I think it's a lack of awareness of their bodies."

For 9 weeks, Maryann worked with Dr. Garfinkel, on how Maryann goes through everyday moves - sitting, standing, bending forward and back.

Dr. Garfinkel says, "We worked not only on the legs, I worked on the whole person."

After the 9 weeks, Dr. Junsip Song, the study leader, saw remarkable results with the 24 volunteers. They stood taller, and had a greater range of motion throughout their body, but particularly through their legs.

Dr. Song told Action News, "Their hip joint, ankle joint, foot joint motion improved. They also walked faster, and the pressure underneath foot improved." He says these improvements helped the women compensate for poorer vision, and inner ear problems.

Maryann still does the exercises in a regular class, even though the study is done.

She says, "My children, my friends, everyone has noticed a difference."

Doctors Song and Garfinkel believe people of every age could benefit from exercises like these. They say most of us sit so much at work that our legs get out of condition.

But they don't think other forms of yoga would work as well as I-yen-gar..... because it emphasizes precise motions.