Yoga improves memory better than brain training: study

by L&D13 May 2016
Yoga has long been used all around the world to improve flexibility, build muscle strength and give people peace of mind.

Now, new research suggests yet another benefit. Namely, it is more effective in improving memory than other well-known memory enhancement exercises.

The study is the first to compare outcomes from yoga and meditation with those from memory training (which includes activities such as crossword puzzles and commercially available computer programs).

It involved participants being split into two groups and either completing a three-month course in yoga and meditation, or practicing memory-training exercises, consisting of skills known to boost memory.

By the end of the study, both groups saw similar benefits in their verbal memory, which is the type of memory used to remember names or lists of words.

But those who practiced yoga had better improvements in visual-spatial memory, which is the type of memory used to remember locations.

The yoga group also saw larger reductions in depression and anxiety than the brain-training group. The study involved 25 participants, all over the age of 55.

Helen Lavretsky, the study's senior author and a professor in residence in UCLA's department of psychiatry, said: "Memory training was comparable to yoga with meditation in terms of improving memory, but yoga provided a broader benefit than memory training because it also helped with mood, anxiety and coping skills."

"If you or your relatives are trying to improve your memory or offset the risk for developing memory loss or dementia, a regular practice of yoga and meditation could be a simple, safe and low-cost solution to improving your brain fitness.”

Harris Eyre, the study's lead author and a doctoral candidate at Australia's University of Adelaide added: "Historically and anecdotally, yoga has been thought to be beneficial in aging well, but this is the scientific demonstration of that benefit.”

"We're converting historical wisdom into the high level of evidence required for doctors to recommend therapy to their patients."

The study is published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

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