By Susanne Mitschke
Studies have shown that Yoga has many physical benefits. It can helps you lose weight, get more flexible, build muscles and tone your body. But, did you know that it might also improve your mental health and cognitive abilities? A recent study published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that it doesn not only strengthen your muscles, but also your thinking skills! Even better, it might even help to ward off age-related mental decline.
A weakening in mental function seems inevitable as we age. But, recent research suggests that we might even be able to slow and mitigate the decline. Specifically physical activities play a huge part in maintaining our brain health! Studies found that people who practice tai chi, dance, do weight training, run, or even garden regularly lower the risk of developing dementia (compared to people who are not physically active at all).
If you don’t have the physical capacity or simply don’t want to go out and run, Yoga might be your thing!
The recent study, published by The Journal of Alzheimer’s disease recruited 29 middle-aged and older adults, who were anxious about cognitive decline and memory loss. The participants were found to have mild cognitive impairment.
The group was divided into two. Group 1 began an established brain-training program, which involves 1 hour per week of classroom time, as well as a series of mental exercises, which have to be done every day for 15 minutes. Group 2 started to do 1 hour of Yoga per week. In addition, the Yoga group was also taught a form of meditation, which they had to do 15 minutes per day.
The test went on for 12 weeks. After this time, both groups were significantly better on most tests the researchers gave them. One thing which stood out was that only the Yoga Group also showed improvements in their mood. They also scored higher on the test of visuospatial memory, which is a type of remembering that is important for balance, the ability to recognise objects and navigate, as well as depth perception.
As a result, the effect of Yoga and Mediation has outperformed the benefits of 12 weeks of brain training.
Even the researchers were surprised by this result, and suggested that specifically the reduction in stress hormones and anxiety may have played a huge part here. They also added that movement increases the levels of several biochemicals in the muscles and brains which are associated with improved brain health.