Martial arts making great strides for the elderly

Aikido for the elderly

Russian scientists feel confident that by practicing the martial art of aikido, elderly men and women can improve both their balance and brain function. Why? According to a study published in the journal Human Physiology, those who trained in martial arts had better coordination and brain function. Researchers asked 35 women ages 54 to 78 to stand up and sit down again with both open and closed eyes. Women who had practiced aikido for the last eight years showed higher levels of balance and coordination as they went through the sitting and standing tests.

For comparative purposes, researchers ran the same test on a much different demographic: Younger, male subjects were tested with the same results. Those individuals who had practiced aikido showed a much better sense of balance.

Researchers attributed the favorable result to the nature of practicing aikido. The hypothesis was that, by increasing the pressure on the front part of your foot's sole, your balance will increase. Aikido involves a lot of movements that do just that, specifically by adding pressure to the big toe. This idea stemmed from the same principle as an astronaut returning home from space.

"The first humans to remain in orbit for four days returned to Earth from zero gravity almost in coma," Olga Bazanova, one of the experiment's participants, told Russia Beyond the Headlines. "The astronauts' cognitive and cardiovascular activity was disrupted, because they didn't feel the ground below their feet."

You go, girls!

A group of elderly women in Siberia formed a group called the Siberian Federation Yoshinkan Aikido in 2005, according to The Siberian Times. The club still gathers to practice aikido together, sparring and grappling in an effort to fight the effects of aging. The physical nature of the sport serves as a great form of conditioning, and it promotes mental sharpness as well. 

Svetlana Tyukova, a 77-year old heart attack survivor, talked about the mental benefits of martial arts to the elderly. 

"The brain is constantly working during classes. You come here, leave everything outside, and you're totally in aikido," Tyukova told The Siberian Times.

This club, nicknamed the "Grandmother's Fight Club," provides an excellent example of the benefits that martial arts can give an individual, regardless of age.