Benefits found in online yoga for sufferers of knee osteoarthritis
Participating in online yoga can improve mobility, quality of life and joint stiffness for individuals with knee osteoarthritis, according to new research.
Published today in Annals of Internal Medicine, University of Melbourne researchers have conducted a randomised clinical trial with 212 adults with knee osteoarthritis to determine if a 12-week unsupervised online yoga program could provide more health benefits than online education alone.
Researchers worked with yoga therapists, physiotherapists, and people with lived experience of osteoarthritis to design an online yoga program tailored specifically to those with knee osteoarthritis.
Upon completion of the 12-week yoga program, participants reported greater improvements in physical function, but not knee pain, compared with the control group who only received online education.
While these improvements were modest, 60 per cent of yoga participants did report improved function of an amount that would be considered clinically important, compared to 44 per cent of the control group.
Participants completed around two-thirds of the recommended number of yoga sessions during the 12-weeks, but this declined once the program became optional. As a result, benefits were not sustained at 24-weeks.
Research lead, University of Melbourne Professor Kim Bennell, said this research highlights the benefits of free, online yoga and reinforces the importance of ongoing exercise.
“Osteoarthritis is very common, it affects one in five people over 45 years in Australia and often involves the knee joint,” Professor Bennell said. “Exercise is a key treatment, but many people admit to not undertaking exercise.
“Our study showed the benefit of a free, online yoga program that allowed people with osteoarthritis from all over Australia to exercise from the comfort of their own home and at a time that suits them. However, we noticed motivation did wane once the 12-week program was completed and exercise became optional.”
Gwynne, 71 years old, who participated in the study said the online aspect and ability to go at her own pace made it a really positive experience.
“I am so pleased that I was chosen to participate, the results have been amazing,” Gwynne said.
“The first few lessons were very painful, but I was allowed to progress at my own pace, which was so helpful. By the end of the study, I was able to complete all the exercises to a comfortable level with minor changes to suit me.
“The best part is that I have gone from using handicap toilets to moving freely, gardening again and walking with no pain. It is best thing I have ever done for myself and highly recommend this exercise program.”
Researchers say although the results are promising, further research is needed to fully establish the effects of unsupervised online yoga and enhance treatment benefits.
“This free-to access home-based yoga program could be a scalable option to improve patient access to exercise, a core recommended osteoarthritis treatment,” Professor Bennell said.
“By removing barriers such as cost and travel to in-person yoga classes, we hope to improve access to exercise programs and help a greater number of people.”
Join the free, online yoga program at myjointyoga.com.au