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Yoga Benefits Your Heart Just as Much as Aerobic Exercise, Study Finds

in Featured, Science, YD News, Yoga Therapy

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A new study found that yoga can be just as beneficial to your heart as your jazzerfitcyclezumbathon or any other aerobic activity you put yourself through. The study found that practicing yoga “lowered blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate and other cardiovascular risk factors in increments comparable to those seen with aerobic exercise.” And our hearts grew three sizes that day! 

Paula Chu, a doctoral candidate in health policy at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, led the study and found that all of these benefits together pack a powerful health punch to the old ticker.

“Taken together, these improvements could facilitate and complement a regimen toward better cardiovascular health,” said Chu.

The findings were based on 37 randomized and controlled clinical trials involving 2,768 people with an average age of 50 monitored for anywhere from 12 weeks to one year through December 2013. The research team focused on yoga’s effects on heart disease, which is still the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US. The trials also looked at risk factors like “high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess abdominal fat and abnormal cholesterol levels that make up a profile – known as metabolic syndrome – that often leads to heart disease and diabetes” and involved examination of participants who practiced yoga compared to no exercise or yoga compared to aerobic exercise. And guess what? It was yoga FTW.

Those who did yoga had significant improvements in a range of risk factors. Systolic blood pressure (the top number) dropped by an average of 5.21 mm Hg, and diastolic pressure (the bottom number) dropped 4.9 mm HG. LDL “bad” cholesterol fell by an average 12.14 mg/dl and HDL “good” cholesterol rose by an average 3.20 mg/dl. Average heart rate was lower by a little over 5 beats per minute and weight loss averaged a bit over 5 pounds.

These positive results compared similarly to the people who did aerobic exercise instead. What does this mean? You may now step away from the that hamster wheel! If you hate the treadmill and only use it because you think you’re helping your heart, maybe try a little viniyoga instead, and you’ll be happier yogster for it.

But don’t just lie in savasana and call it a heart healthy day just yet.  Of course, as with any scientific study, MORE studies need to be done, especially on what types of yoga are the most helpful. Participants practiced various forms of yoga including “Silver” yoga (for seniors), Iyengar yoga, Viniyoga, and Vinyasa. So there’s more inquiry to be done, and it’s possible there may not be one yoga style panacea. But, then again, when has there ever been?

Bottom line: keep on practicing and don’t let anyone give you any crap about your cardio anymore. Your anahata chakra says “thank you!”

[Via Reuters]

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21 comments… add one
  • VQ2

    In people without insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome or diabetes Type 2, these are perfectly acceptable findings. Otherwise, yoga is the (for focusing effects only) seasoning in our (intense) cardio salsa … (well, anything but straight Zumba, personally …)

  • Wow great article! As much as I love yoga, on days I only have 1 hour and choose yoga over cardio I do sometimes feel like I have not made a choice that is best for my longterm health so I am so glad to see my fears are unfounded. I am sure a combination is best but if I just have that one hour I can feel the benefits of yoga over any other choice — I am focused, calmer, more relaxed and just feel happier.

  • Don’t forget about the tremendous spiritual power that yoga has. Yoga is at its climax when the mind, body and spirit have united.

  • Great article, it’s a shame so many people don’t see yoga as a worthwhile addition to their routine!

  • Carli Shendell

    I have quite a few friends that are addicted to yoga, and are constantly encouraging me to implement it into my lifestyle. The few times I have tried it, I have always left feeling like I didn’t sweat enough to receive any sort of health benefit. So, I have always chosen cardio over doing yoga, because of the sweat factor and my belief it was doing more good for my body. As someone with a family history of high cholesterol and high blood pressure, cardiovascular work is essential. This article has given me a totally different outlook on yoga. I am excited to learn that yoga can do such great things for my heart, better than a cardio workout can. I now plan to start doing yoga weekly, especially on the days I’m not in the treadmill mood. Living on an unhealthy college diet, it will be nice to get the health benefits without having to use so much energy. Yoga is known to also be good for the mind and soul, and I think if more people saw this article and learned the health benefits of yoga they would be more interested in yoga too.

  • Great post! Have recently found myself in yoga. I do it every morning and it has changed my life. I sleep better and I feel more energised!

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