A new research study points to the benefits of yoga for improving the problem of urinary incontinence among older women.
Women between the ages of 55 and 83, with an average age of about 66, were enrolled in a yoga class that was specifically designed to help women experiencing urinary incontinence. The women had no previous experience with yoga.
The author of the study, Dr. Allison Huang, explained:
“In spite of their age, the frequency of their incontinence and their lack of experience with yoga, these women were able to learn to practice yoga effectively through a three-month yoga program that involved twice weekly group classes with six to 10 other incontinent women. By the end of the program women in the yoga group reported more than a 75 percent decrease in the frequency of their incontinence, a pretty dramatic change.”
Huang is a co-director of University of California at San Francisco’s resident research training program at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.
Data reveals that over 20 million women in the United States frequently suffer from urinary incontinence. The 56 women in the study experienced the discomfort of incontinence every day, several times a day. Half the women were assigned to a three-month yoga program, and the other half of the women participated in a different type of exercise group which focused on stretching and strengthening, but without a special concentration on the problematic pelvic floor. Both groups met two times per week and did a third session at home. During the three-month period all other treatments for incontinence were stopped.
The results were quite positive; the women in the general exercise group described a 50% reduction in the frequency of incontinence, while those in the pelvis-focused yoga group described a decrease of 75%. None of the women in either group suffered any injuries.
Huang believes that the study showed that yoga has the ability to strengthen the pelvic floor without the need for traditional rehabilitation therapy.
“Regular practice of yoga poses can also improve general physical fitness and conditioning, which has been shown to be protective against urinary incontinence in frailer older women,” she said.