October 11, 2019
2 min read

Chair-based yoga and exercise may improve quality of life in patients with dementia

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Juyoung Park

For older adults with dementia, three nonpharmacological interventions — chair yoga, music intervention and chair-based exercise — were safe and feasible, according to findings published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Other Dementias. In addition, chair yoga and chair-based exercises improved quality of life in this population.

There are very few safe nonpharmacological options to manage behavioral or emotional symptoms in older adults with advanced dementia," Juyoung Park, PhD, associate professor of social work at Florida Atlantic University’s College for Design and Social Inquiry, told Healio Psychiatry. "It was found that chair yoga is relatively safe and effective for older adults with advanced dementia. Chair yoga can help older adults with advanced dementia to manage behavioral and emotional symptoms. It can also minimize risk of drug adverse events and improve their quality of life."

Park noted that quality of life provides a more comprehensive approach to biopsychosocial and behavioral function than measures of agitation.

According to the researchers, many of the participants did not understand the instructor’s verbal instructions because of cognitive impairment associated with advanced dementia. However, they were able to follow and reproduce the instructor's poses.

The researchers compared the three nonpharmacological interventions by conducting a cluster randomized controlled trial at three community sites. They assigned 31 participants to one of the three twice-weekly, 45-minute interventions. All participants were aged 60 years or older, lived in the community, were at any stage of dementia progression and were unable to participate in standing yoga or regular exercise. Of those enrolled, 27 safely completed the interventions.

Park and colleagues reported that the chair yoga group demonstrated significant quality of life improvement compared with the music intervention group (P = .01). However, they found no significant group differences in physical function, behavioral or psychological symptoms between the groups. The chair yoga and chair-based exercise groups showed quality of life improvement over time, whereas the music intervention group demonstrated a decline. The researchers suggested that the chair groups experienced improvements because “stretching, strengthening, and flexibility through poses that use isometric contraction and relaxation of various muscle groups could lead to experiences of bodily sensation and could reduce current tension and improve relaxation.”

They concluded that safety is an “appealing aspect of the [three] interventions as complementary therapy for many dementia populations,” as no adverse events or injuries occurred.

"Even though they were cognitively impaired, these older adults still had purpose and a desire to complete the chair yoga intervention," Park said. "The chair yoga had a positive impact on their self-efficacy and quality of life. More research is needed to show positive clinical outcomes and to provide more nonpharmacological options for this vulnerable population."by Joe Gramigna

Disclosures: Park reports working as a member of the faculty of the Florida Atlantic University School of Social work. All other authors report no relevant financial disclosures.