Yoga, the ancient mind-body practice, may be as good as aerobic exercise or biking and brisk walking in lowering the risk of heart disease, a recent study revealed.
The study involved about 2,768 subjects, wherein investigators from Netherlands and US found promising evidence that yoga is beneficial in managing and improving risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. It has also been found to be a potentially effective therapy for cardiovascular health.
Yoga may provide the same benefits in reducing risk factors for heart diseases, as do traditional physical activities like brisk walking and biking, researchers said. The finding is significant, particularly for those who prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise and still achieve similar benefits.
Yoga incorporates physical, mental and spiritual elements, and has shown in various studies to be effective in improving cardiovascular risk factors, through reduction of heart attack and stroke risks.
The researchers said that this analysis was made to provide evidence about estimate of yoga’s effectiveness when measured against exercise and no exercise.
The results showed that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those doing yoga, than those doing no exercise and that yoga had a strong impact on these risks, comparable to exercise.
For instance, the Body Mass Index (BMI) was reduced, the LDL (bad) cholesterol reduced by 12mg/dl, and HDL (good) cholesterol increased by 3mg/dl, and the blood pressure and heart rate also dropped, along with cholesterol levels.
In comparison with exercise itself, yoga was found to have comparable effect on risk factors, as aerobic exercise. According to investigators, this may be because of yoga’s impact on stress reduction, leading to positive impacts on neuroendocrine status, metabolic, and cardio-vagal function.
Technically, yoga does not ‘count’ towards the 150 minute of aerobic exercise recommended by various organizations, but, it is considered as a form of muscle strengthening. The cardiovascular benefits found in this study come from muscle workout, and yoga’s effect on stress response or on mental health.
Yoga can affect the nervous system and stress response, through hormone function and reduction of inflammation.
It is a known fact that this is not certainly the first study that points out to yoga’s effect on heart health. But, the results are encouraging, as yoga may be a cost-effective way to help people improve their heart and metabolic health. Moreover, yoga can easily be practiced at home with little or no equipment.
The findings bear an important implication for acceptance of yoga as an effective therapeutic intervention. And best of all, when done in right manner, yoga can also offer significant benefits to mind as well.