An issue that will only become more important in CT. – CTPost

Did you know that older adults are among the most active populations in Connecticut? According to the state’s 2021 Healthy Aging Data Report, 75 percent of those in the 60-plus population had physical activity in the previous month, and 58 percent met CDC guidelines for aerobic physical activity. With more spare time in retirement and a growing interest in wellness culture, it’s no surprise that older adults are spending time moving their bodies.

In Connecticut it is predicted that by 2024 the population of people 65 and older will have grown by 57 percent since 2010. This September, health professionals across the state are using National Healthy Aging Month to encourage adults and seniors to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. And with evidence proving that physical activity can promote healthy aging and prevent age-related decline in muscle function, it’s imperative that Connecticut has broad access to affordable and achievable exercise options.

Low-impact activities like yoga, an Eastern practice that focuses on a whole-person practice of movement and lifestyle, is great option for people of any age to incorporate into their routines — especially older people. Yoga’s versatility, which goes beyond the physical practice, allows modifications for those recovering from injuries, pregnant women, young bodies, aging bodies, and everyone in between. Yoga is also a flexible exercise — both literally and figuratively — because it’s easy to build into your schedule: classes can range from 20 minutes to over an hour and can take place at any time of day.

AARP cites numerous physical health benefits associated with practicing yoga in your 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond, including reducing the risk of osteoporosis, which 17.7 percent of adults over 65 suffer from. Consistent gentle yoga and strengthening poses can help fight this common bone disease by improving bone mineral density and mass. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, regular yoga can reduce body inflammation — a key contributor to heart disease and high blood pressure. Yoga is also proven to counteract chronic and high-impact chronic pain, health conditions that 30 percent of adults aged 65 to 85 experience. To sum it up, yoga supports older adults in fighting the onset of diseases, increasing mobility, and reducing fall risk.

Equally as important as yoga’s physical benefits are its mental health benefits. A 2022 Columbia University study found that 10 percent of older Americans have dementia, and an additional 22 percent have mild cognitive impairments. However, the meditative features and emphasis on focus and discipline associated with yoga have been shown to counteract cellular aging and cognitive decline. Older adults looking to stay sharp should consider adding yoga classes to their mental acuity exercises. Breath work, mindfulness, and other mental tools used in yoga can also reduce depression, stress, anxiety, and negative emotions. Some older adults who practice yoga may also meditate to fight unhealthy habits, such as smoking and drug reliance.

No matter the style of yoga you choose, most classes are easily accessible. Unlike other forms of exercise, yoga requires no equipment, and classes can be found in most community centers, YMCAs, local studios, and thousands of online videos. Yoga’s accessibility makes it easy to form a community around, reducing loneliness and providing a safe, supportive space for those who need it. Older people have an increased risk of loneliness and social isolation, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. During the crisis, feelings of isolation spiked globally, with 21 percent of respondents reporting “severe loneliness.” Now that group exercise classes are feasible again, it’s important to use community resources to expand social circles.

In recognition of Healthy Aging Month this September, ConnectiCare is encouraging people to check out a yoga class — and experience the vast physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health benefits — if you want to get or stay active or try something new. Several affordable yoga classes are available in the state, including the Yoga In Our City program, which allows Connecticut residents to enjoy free yoga taught by local teachers at parks in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, New London, Waterbury, and Willimantic. There are over 700 classes throughout the season, from now through Oct. 9 as well as a library of online classes. To learn more, visit

Dr. Indulekha Warrier is chief medical officer at ConnectiCare; Sarahjean Rudman is a certified yogini and Yoga In Our City teacher.

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