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Yoga Helped Older Stroke Victims Improve
Newswise, June 13, 2011 — An Indiana
University study that exposed older veterans
with stroke to yoga produced "exciting"
results as researchers explore whether this
popular mind-body practice can help stroke
victims cope with their increased risk for
painful and even deadly falls.
The pilot study involved 19 men and one
woman, average age of 66. For eight weeks,
they participated in a twice weekly
hour-long group yoga class taught by a yoga
therapist who dramatically modified the
poses to meet the veterans' needs.
A range of balance items measured by the
Berg Balance Scale and Fullerton Advance
Balance Scale improved by 17 percent and 34
percent respectively by the end of the
program. But equally exciting to lead
researcher Arlene A. Schmid, rehabilitation
research scientist at the Richard L.
Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis,
was the measurable gain in confidence the
study participants had in their balance.
"It also was interesting to see how much the
men liked it," said Schmid, assistant
professor of occupational therapy in the
School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences
at Indiana University-Purdue University
Indianapolis. Many of the veterans wanted
the study to continue or asked for a
take-home exercise plan so they could
continue the practice. "They enjoyed it so
much partly because they weren't getting any
other treatment. They had already completed
their rehabilitation but felt there still
was room for improvement."
Schmid will discuss her findings on Saturday
during the American College of Sports
Medicine meeting in Denver. Her poster
presentation, "Preliminary Evidence of Yoga
on Balance and Endurance Outcomes for
Veterans with Stroke" will be from 7:30
a.m.-11 a.m. MDT in Hall B in the session
for Fitness and Performance Testing for
Posture, Stability and Balance.
Statistics concerning strokes and falls are
grim, with studies showing that strokes can
quadruple the risk of falling and greatly
increase the risk of breaking a hip after a
fall. An estimated 80 percent of people who
have strokes will also have some degree of
The study participants performed poses
initially while seated in chairs and then
progressed to seated and standing poses.
Eventually, they all performed poses on the
floor, something Schmid considers
significant because of a reluctance many
older adults have to working on the floor.
"Everything was modified because we wanted
them to be successful on day one," Schmid
said. "Everyone could be successful at some
A score of less than 46 on the Berg Balance
Scale indicates a fall risk. Schmid said the
study participants on average began the
study with a score of 40 and then improved
to 47, moving them past the fall risk
threshold. The study participants also
showed significant improvements in endurance
based on a seated two-minute step test and a
six-minute walk test.
Schmid said research into therapeutic uses
for yoga is "really taking off,"
particularly in mental health fields.
Clinically, she has been watching a small
trend of occupational therapists and
physical therapists also becoming yoga
The yoga performed in the study
was modified to the extent that Schmid said
it would be very difficult to find a
comparable class offered publicly. Such a
class should be taught by a yoga therapist
who has had additional training in anatomy
and physiology and how to work with people
with disabilities. Schmid hopes to expand
the study so she and her colleagues can
explore whether such classes are effective
on a larger scale.
The study was funded by the Department of
Veterans Affairs, QUERI.
Study coauthors are Amanda N. Gerwig and
Kristine K. Miller, IUPUI and Roudebush VAMC;
Nancy Schalk, Heartland Yoga Community,
Indianapolis; Marieke Van Puymbroek, IU
Bloomington; Peter Alterburger and Tracy