Yoga Superior to Brain Training to Combat Dementia

Senior couple stretching togetherBoth yoga and brain training games can reduce symptoms of pre-Alzheimer’s cognitive decline, but yoga may be more effective at improving spatial reasoning, according to a small study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, with 1 in 3 seniors dying with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. One in nine people older than 65 has Alzheimer’s, costing the average caregiving family at least $5,000 per year.

Yoga to Prevent Pre-Dementia Cognitive Decline

Previous research has pointed to the value of exercise, meditation, and brain training to reduce symptoms of cognitive decline, particularly in the early stages of dementia.

For this study, researchers recruited 25 volunteers older than 55 to compare yoga therapy to brain training. Each participant reported some memory issues, such as forgetting names and losing things.

For three months, 11 participants completed hour-long weekly brain training sessions that included exercises such as crossword puzzles and computerized brain training. Fourteen participants had a weekly hour-long Kundalini yoga session, in addition to engaging in Kirtan Kriya meditation for 20 minutes each day. Kundalini yoga focuses on strength, flexibility, and breathing, and Kirtan Kriya is its meditative offshoot.

Both groups experienced improvements in remembering names and words. However, the yoga and meditation group saw greater improvements in visual-spatial memory. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans showed increased neural activity in both groups, but only the yoga group had a statistically significant improvement.

Easing Depression to Combat Dementia

In addition to improving memory and spatial reasoning, yoga also improved mental health. The yoga group experienced fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety after 12 weeks. Previous research suggests depression and anxiety are correlated with an increased risk of dementia, so improved mental health could also mean improved cognitive health.

The yoga group reported being better able to cope with stress, which suggests yoga might be a valuable tool for more than improving seniors’ quality of life.

References:

  1. Anxiety and depression increase dementia risk. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/anxiety-depression-increase-dementia-risk/
  2. Knapton, S. (2016, May 10). Yoga better than crosswords for preventing pre-Alzheimer’s memory loss. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/05/10/yoga-better-than-crosswords-for-preventing-pre-alzheimers-memory/
  3. Latest Alzheimer’s facts and figures. (2013, September 17). Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/facts/
  4. Rettner, R. (2016, May 12). Yoga may improve memory better than brain training | Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2016/05/12/yoga-may-improve-memory-better-than-brain-training.html

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  • Shay

    Shay

    May 17th, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    Sounds like there many benefits to yoga that I had not even considered before.

  • Marla

    Marla

    May 17th, 2016 at 2:44 PM

    thanks but I will be keeping my crossword puzzles and daily walks

  • rion

    rion

    May 18th, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    Much of this could be about the fact that staying active and busy, no matter how you choose to do that, is a big part of how you can keep dementia and those symptoms form affecting you in a horrible way. I know that if you are predisposed to it then there might not be much that you can do but I have always heard that keeping both the body and the brain active can help to alleviate some of the severity. I am hopping so at least.

  • Angelica

    Angelica

    May 19th, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    Truthfully I never feel better than when I am in yoga mode and can make it to a class at least several times a week.
    There is something about it that not only relaxes me but energizes me all at the same time if that even makes any sense.
    I feel complete and whole in a way that I don’t feel when I neglect to make those class times a priority in my life.

  • MIA

    MIA

    May 23rd, 2016 at 2:32 PM

    Thoughts on pilates since somewhat comparable?

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