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6 Tips: Psychological and Physical Practices for Older Adults

Psychological and physical practices, including relaxation techniques and meditative exercise forms such as yoga, tai chi, and qigong, are widely used by older Americans, both for fitness and relaxation and because of perceived health benefits. Research shows that these approaches may be helpful for some health conditions common among older people.

  1. Aerobic exercise, strength training, weight loss (if overweight), tai chi, and other nonpharmacologic approaches may be helpful for osteoarthritis symptoms and are recommended in clinical practice guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology.

  2. Several psychological or physical practices may be helpful for sleep disorders. The strongest evidence supports cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. There’s also some evidence that relaxation techniques can help, as well as limited evidence for a beneficial effect of yoga.

  3. Research suggests that some psychological and physical approaches, such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation-based programs, may help to reduce common menopausal symptoms.

  4. Tai chi and qigong may reduce the risk of falling in older adults. There’s also evidence that tai chi may improve balance and stability both during normal aging and in people with neurodegenerative conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and stroke.

  5. Psychological and physical exercise programs such as tai chi, qigong, and yoga may modestly enhance cognitive function in older adults without cognitive impairment.

  6. Take charge of your health—talk with your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Together, you can make shared, well-informed decisions.