3 research-based benefits of yoga for healthy aging

The Bottom Line

  • People of all ages are embracing yoga as a way to improve health and overall well-being.
  • Health benefits of doing yoga regularly – including pain relief, improved balance and health-related quality of life – are supported by research evidence.
  • Yoga poses can be adapted for all ages and abilities.

Fitness trends come and go, but yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and shows no sign of fading away any time soon. Yoga continues to attract more and more followers every year representing all ages and physical fitness levels. What’s the attraction? Although yoga originally evolved as a spiritual practice, it has become a popular means of promoting physical and mental well-being.

The poses, stretches, breathing and relaxation/meditation techniques associated with yoga are credited with maintaining good health and improving health conditions that tend to affect us as we age. Here are three examples of the health benefits of yoga, based on recent research evidence. Click the links to read more about the related studies.

1. Relieve your aching back

Chronic low back pain is a very common and disabling condition. Drugs help, but come with risks of side effects. Yoga may help relieve the pain. Studies show it can be an effective, safe, non-drug therapy either by itself, or used in combination with medication (1).

2. Boost your balance

Our balance tends to diminish with age. It’s important to work at maintaining it because balance is key to preventing falls and falls-related injuries. Yoga – which involves controlled movements, concentration and holding various poses – can improve balance and mobility in people who practice regularly (2).

3. Ease symptoms of disease

The combination of physical exercise (poses and stretches), mindful breathing and relaxation/meditation aim to strengthen and improve the body, mind and soul. Studies show that this holistic approach to health and wellness can help improve health-related quality of life and mental well-being in older adults, as well as relieve symptoms in people recovering from or coping with diseases such as cancer, asthma and type 2 diabetes (3-6).

Yoga your way

There are many types of yoga, including classes for beginners or those with physical limitations.

Most poses can be adapted… or you can simply choose not to do some of them. Yoga may be practiced by millions of people around the world but how, where and at what level is uniquely personal. If you haven’t already done so, consider giving it a try. You have nothing to lose – except possibly some pain and stiffness – and much to potentially gain including pain relief, balance and overall quality of life.

Featured Resources

Get the latest content first. Sign up for free weekly email alerts.
Author Details


  1. Cramer H, Lauche R, Haller H, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of yoga for low back pain. Clin J Pain. 2013; 29:450-460.
  2. Youkhana S, Dean CM, Wolff M, et al. Yoga-based exercise improves balance and mobility in people aged 60 and over: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Age Ageing. 2016; 45(1):21-29. doi: 10.1093/ageing/afv175. 
  3. Tulloch A, Bombell H, Dean C, et al. Yoga-based exercise improves health-related quality of life and mental well-being in older people: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Age Ageing. 2018; 47:537-544.
  4. Cramer H, Lauche R, Klose P, et al. Yoga for improving health-related quality of life, mental health and cancer-related symptoms in women diagnosed with breast cancer. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2017; 1:CD010802. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010802.pub2. 
  5. Yang Z, Zhong H, Mao C, et al. Yoga for asthma. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016; 4:CD010346. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010346.pub2.   
  6. Pai L, Li T, Hwu Y, et al. The effectiveness of regular leisure-time physical activities on long-term glycemic control in people with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2016; 113:77-85.

DISCLAIMER: These summaries are provided for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for advice from your own health care professional. The summaries may be reproduced for not-for-profit educational purposes only. Any other uses must be approved by the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal (info@mcmasteroptimalaging.org).

Many of our Blog Posts were written before the COVID-19 pandemic and thus do not necessarily reflect the latest public health recommendations. While the content of new and old blogs identify activities that support optimal aging, it is important to defer to the most current public health recommendations. Some of the activities suggested within these blogs may need to be modified or avoided altogether to comply with changing public health recommendations. To view the latest updates from the Public Health Agency of Canada, please visit their website.