One survey found a little less than 6 percent of adult Americans said they had tried yoga, tai chi or qi gong back in 2002, but that figure jumped to slightly more than 10 percent in 2012, fueled mostly by yoga. And a second survey that focused on children found a similar trend: Yoga had been tried by about 1.7 million children in 2012, representing an increase of about 400,000 since 2007.
Even seniors seem to be getting into the practice of yoga. Though just over 1 percent of adults over 65 had tried yoga in 2002, that figure increased to 3 percent by 2012. The upshot: 21 million American adults now say they've tried yoga in the past year.
As to what may account for yoga's surge in popularity, Dr. Josephine Briggs, director of the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, said during a news conference Tuesday that the researchers could only identify trends, not explain them.
Both surveys, which were published Feb. 10 by the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), looked at the overall use of alternative or complementary medicine among Americans.
"Overall, Americans' use of complementary health approaches has not changed much, but the use of individual approaches has," said Tainya Clarke, lead author of the adult survey and an associate research fellow with the NCHS, which is part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On the dietary supplement front, adult use dipped, falling from nearly 19 percent in 2002 to less than 18 percent by 2012. Supplements covered by the survey included fish oil, melatonin, probiotics, Echinacea and garlic, but excluded both vitamins and minerals.
Still, some supplements have actually gained in popularity in recent years. For example, while glucosamine and chondroitin use is down, fish oil use is up. Taken by nearly 5 percent of adults back in 2007, fish oil is now in the cabinets of nearly 8 percent of adults, ranking as the number one supplement.
Fish oil is also number one among children, whose overall supplement use actually rose slightly, up from just over 4 percent in 2007 to almost 5 percent by 2012, according to the report.
Dr. Molly Roberts, past president of the American Holistic Medical Association, emphasized the vast scope of today's complementary health scene.
"A third of the population is now using some kind of integrative medicine technique," she said. "That's a heck of a lot of people -- 108 million who are using these services."
"The other thing is that there are a number of modalities and supplements that used to be considered 'alternative' that are now considered mainstream," said Roberts, who is also a board member with the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine in San Francisco.
"A good example is vitamin D and probiotics," Roberts said. "Increasingly, people are recognizing integrative medicine's value, and that we're not so much involved in something that is way out there, but rather that we're often on the forefront of researching and understanding how the body really works."
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