A systematic review of the health effects of yoga for people with mild cognitive impairment and dementia

BMC Geriatr. 2023 Jan 20;23(1):37. doi: 10.1186/s12877-023-03732-5.


Background: Yoga is a mind-body practice that can elicit robust health and wellbeing effects for older adults. As a result, there is increased public and academic interest into the potential benefits of yoga for older people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia.

Methods: Literature searches in five databases (CENTRAL, PubMed and EBSCOHost indexing CINAHL Plus, PsycINFO, Psychology and Behavioural Sciences Collection) were conducted from the databases' date of inception through to 4 September 2020 to identify pre-post single and multigroup studies of yoga-based interventions involving people with MCI or dementia. Effects on cognitive, mental, and physical health were evaluated, as was safety and study quality.

Results: Database searches identified 1431 articles. Of these, 10 unique studies met inclusion criteria (total 421 participants). Four studies each implemented Kundalini yoga and chair yoga, while two employed Hatha yoga. Most programs ran for 12 weeks (n = 5) and compared yoga to a control group (n = 5). Most studies reported improved cognition, mood, and balance. However, these effects were marred by the high risk of bias identified in all articles. Four studies assessed safety, with one instance of dizziness reported.

Conclusions: In this emerging field, these studies show that yoga may be safe and beneficial for the wellbeing of people with MCI or dementia. More high quality randomised controlled trials are needed to improve the evidence-base and overcome the limitations of existing studies.

Keywords: Ageing; Cognition; Complementary therapy; Memory; Physical activity.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cognition
  • Cognitive Dysfunction* / therapy
  • Dementia* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Yoga*