Effects of yoga-based interventions on cognitive functioning in healthy older adults: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Author: Sara Hoy1, Josefine Östh2, Michaela Pascoe3, Aaron Kandola4, Mats Hallgren2
1 The Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences (GIH), Stockholm 114 33, Sweden. Electronic address: sara.hoy@gih.se.
2 Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm 171 77, Sweden.
3 Institute for Health and Sport, Victoria University, Melbourne VIC 3011, Australia.
4 Division of Psychiatry, University, College London, London W1T 7BN, United Kingdom.
Conference/Journal: Complement Ther Med
Date published: 2021 Feb 19
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2021.102690. , Word Count: 252

The world's elderly population is growing. Physical activity has positive effects on health and cognition, but is decreasing among the elderly. Interest in yoga-based exercises has increased in this population, especially as an intervention targeting balance, flexibility, strength, and well-being. Recent interest has arisen regarding yoga's potential benefits for cognition.

To systematically review evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the effects of yoga-based interventions on cognitive functioning in healthy adults aged 60 + . A secondary objective was to report the intervention characteristics.

The review was conducted in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Searches were performed from inception to June 2020 using the following electronic databases: (1) PubMed (NLM); (2) Embase (Elsevier); (3) Cochrane Central (Wiley); (4) PsycINFO (EBSCOhost); and (5) Cinahl (EbscoHost).

Inclusion criteria:
RCTs of yoga-based interventions assessing cognition in healthy adults ≥60 years. Risk of bias was assessed using the revised Cochrane risk of bias tool.

A total of 1466 records were initially identified; six studies (5 unique trials) were included in the review. Four of the six articles reported significant positive effects of yoga-based interventions on cognition, including gross memory functioning and executive functions. Intervention characteristics and assessment methods varied between studies, with a high overall risk of bias in all studies.

Yoga-based interventions are associated with improvements in cognition in healthy older adults. Adequately powered RCTs with robust study designs and long-term follow-ups are required. Future studies should explicitly report the intervention characteristics associated with changes in cognitive function.

Keywords: cognition; exercise; intervention characteristics; older adults; randomized controlled trials; yoga.

PMID: 33618011 DOI: 10.1016/j.ctim.2021.102690