A major £ 1.4million study looking at the benefits yoga brings to older people with multiple long-term health conditions is about to start at Northumbria University, Newcastle.
The four-year study is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) and follows evidence that people with a number of long-term health conditions are more likely to have reduced physical function, a lower quality of life and life expectancy, combined with more need for support for mental health issues.
In the UK, two-thirds of people over 65 suffer from multimorbidity, which means having at least two long-term health problems. The conditions include diabetes, heart disease and asthma, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
The more health problems a person has, the more likely they are to see a general practitioner, be prescribed medication and be hospitalized. Treatments associated with long-term health problems account for 70% of NHS spending and more research is needed to identify cost-effective treatments for this group of patients.
The study therefore aims to determine both the clinical effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of a yoga program specially adapted for the elderly with multimorbidity.
Associate Professor Garry Tewof Northumbria’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation, will work in partnership with York University and independent yoga consultants on the study. The research team will recruit nearly 600 adults aged 65 and over with multimorbidity from 12 different locations across the UK.
Participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group will continue to receive their usual care without any additional support, while the second will receive their usual care as well as an invitation to join the British Wheel of Yoga’s 12-week Gentle Years Yoga program. This program includes weekly group sessions and encouragement to perform specific yoga practices at home.
Participants’ progress will be assessed after three, six and twelve months to monitor changes in their quality of life and mental health.
Professor Tew specializes in researching the effects of exercise programs in people with long-term health problems. He explained, “Yoga is believed to provide many benefits, such as increased strength, flexibility, balance and quality of life, and reduced stress, anxiety and depression. In older people in particular, there is promising evidence that yoga can improve physical function and quality of life, but more work is needed to understand the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of yoga in older people with multimorbidity.
“Our study will establish the effects of the Gentle Years Yoga program on this population. A main objective will be the effect of the program on the overall quality of life of the people. We’ll also look at any changes in their reported levels of depression and anxiety, and whether they fall less due to improved physical function.
“We will also measure the use of health care resources by the participants, which will allow us to establish the profitability of the yoga program. If these results are positive, they will provide evidence to the health commissioners to fund yoga in the NHS. “
Funding for this major study follows a successful pilot trial of the Gentle Years Yoga program in Yorkshire, led by Professor Tew in 2016, encouraging preliminary data on the effects of the yoga program on physical function and quality of life.
Explaining the success of this program, Prof Tew said, “Common yoga poses are adapted so that they can be performed on chairs, so that inactive older people with long-term conditions such as osteoarthritis, high blood pressure and dementia can safely participate.
He went on to say, “In addition to the benefits that exercise brings, yoga classes have also provided a social element, with the ability to make new friendships that help reduce any feelings of isolation that people might. to feel. After the pilot study ended, most of the participants opted to continue with the classes and paid for the sessions themselves, confirming that they found the program useful.
Professor George Marston, Pro Vice Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at Northumbria University, said: “I am absolutely delighted that this project has been funded. As our society ages, it becomes increasingly important to find strategies that lead to healthy old age. Garry and his team have the skills and experience to turn this project into something with tangible and direct benefits for a large part of our society, and which will have a huge impact in the years to come.
Researchers at the University of Northumbria specialize in research that evaluates the role of exercise in the prevention and management of long-term conditions. Academics are also studying other factors such as nutrition, sports participation, and sleep to see how they can improve people’s health. Their evidence argues for financially viable solutions to address the significant health and social care challenges facing society.
For more information on our research in this area, visit www.northumbria.ac.uk/integratedhealth