Yoga is a popular form of exercise that can strengthen one physically and mentally. It is used to improve flexibility, reduce stress, and address many physical and mental health challenges. Although the benefits of yoga have proven numerous, it is unclear whether or not yoga can improve overall well-being in those most at risk for declines in this area. Specifically, does yoga improve well-being in women over the age of 45? This was the question at the core of a study conducted by Nina Moliver of the School of Behavioral and Health Sciences at North Central University in Arizona. Moliver wanted to extend the current evidence how positive the effects of yoga can be by exploring if these effects carry over to overall well-being in older women.
As women age, their physical health can deteriorate, putting quality of life at risk. Also, social networks shift, children leave home, spouses may leave or pass away, and women may find themselves dealing with emotional issues that can cause stress and vulnerability, such as depression, anxiety, and fear. Therefore, Moliver wanted to know if practicing yoga lessened these conditions and protected women from mental and physical health problems by improving overall well-being. For her study, Moliver interviewed 211 women between the ages of 45 to 80 who regularly practiced yoga. She assessed several measures and evaluated how often they practiced yoga and how long they had been doing so. She also looked at marital status and other factors relating to subjective well-being (SWB).
Moliver found that yoga had a significantly positive effect on all aspects of SWB. In particular, the longer and more often that the women engaged in yoga, the higher levels of positivity, vitality, and overall sense of transcendence they had. They also had the lowest rates of anxiety, sadness, and irritability. Moliver added, “For total lifetime hours of yoga practice, the strongest effect was shown for positive psychological attitudes.” The women who had been doing yoga for years had higher SWB than those who had just begun. Frequency was also an important indication of SWB. Another interesting finding was the correlation between processed food and SWB. The women who consumed less processed food had the highest SWB. For women at risk for psychological problems, beginning and maintaining a yoga practice could offer the opportunity to reduce the risk of mental as well as physical health conditions in the future.
Moliver, N., et al. Yoga experience as a predictor of psychological wellness in women over 45 years. International Journal of Yoga 6.1 (2013): 11-9. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.
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