Numerous Studies: Yoga As Good For Heart as Aerobic Activitiy

Amy Schaeffer - Author

Dec. 16 2014, Updated 12:21 p.m. ET

If you’re not too keen about building up a sweat in the cold and damp in order to get fit, there’s some good news: It turns out that the peaceful and gentle activity of yoga is as good for the heart as cycling.

An analysis of dozens of studies into the impact of the ancient Eastern art concluded it has numerous health benefits. Yoga, it found, leads to weight loss, lowers bad cholesterol and cuts blood pressure. In fact, the improvements were on a par with those seen in people who did conventional exercise such as cycling and brisk walking. In some cases, it worked even better than prescription pills.

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If that wasn’t enough, regular yoga sessions may even make it easier to quit smoking. The researchers aren’t sure why yoga is so effective but say the combination of exercise and stress relief may be key.

“This finding is significant as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in cardiovascular risk reduction,” said Professor Myriam Hunink, of Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam.

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“These results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and in my view worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice.
Yoga has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment and prevention strategy given its low-cost and lack of expensive equipment or technology.”

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The team reviewed 37 trials which included 2768 people who measured the benefits of yoga compared with exercise and no physical activity.

When compared to no exercise, yoga was found to reduce BMI (Body Mass Index), lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. On average, subjects were 2.75kg lighter than those who did no exercise.

The researchers believe that yoga could be particularly useful for people with existing heart conditions who cannot do strenuous exercise, such as those with arthritis or the elderly. Increasingly yoga has been proven to be beneficial for a number of conditions and is now recommended by the NHS for pregnant women and cancer patients.

An earlier study found that regular sessions of the exercise can help fight off depression as it boosts levels of a chemical in the brain which is essential for a sound and relaxed mind. Scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine found that the levels of the amino acid GABA are much higher in those that carry out yoga than those do the equivalent of a similarly strenuous exercise such as walking.

Last year the University of Illinois found that twenty minutes of yoga is better for boosting brain activity than vigorous exercise for the same amount of time.

Researchers discovered that a single, short session of the yoga significantly improves memory, speed and focus, more so than regular workouts.


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