Yoga may reduce heart disease risk factors

Yoga may reduce heart disease risk factors

Originated over 5,000 years ago in India, yoga is practiced to harmonize the mind and breath through various breathing techniques, postures and meditation. While it may appear to be mostly comprised of sitting, standing and relaxing, a new study published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology says yoga may provide the same cardiovascular benefits as traditional aerobic exercises.

Researchers from the United States and the Netherlands reviewed 37 clinical trials with 2,768 subjects. The trials covered various types of yoga, frequency of classes and people involved. The study included people ranging from younger adults doing aerial yoga to older adults with heart risk factors doing basic yoga.

Results showed significant improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight – all of which are considered risk factors for cardiovascular disease – for all those continually doing yoga compared to those who were not.

With such results, researchers are led to believe that yoga can provide the same benefits in risk factor reduction as traditional cardiovascular exercises like jogging, brisk walking or biking.

“This information is especially significant for those individuals who are unable to perform aerobic exercises,” says Dr. Sunil Kadakia a cardiologist on staff at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, IL. “By committing to a yoga routine, they may still be able to achieve similar cardiovascular benefits.”

Going back to the root of the practice, the initial purpose of yoga was to develop oneself spiritually. Researchers note that the positive effects of yoga as a physical practice could potentially be due to its impact on stress reduction and relaxation. According to the American Heart Association, constant high levels of stress may lead to heart disease by causing blood pressure and heart rate to rise.

“The best way to keep your heart healthy is to find a physical activity you enjoy and are able to commit to,” says Dr. Kadakia. “If you choose yoga, be sure to start at the beginners level with an instructor until you become comfortable and build up strength and flexibility.”

Dr. Kadakia also adds, “An exercise is only as good as how much effort you put into it. If you want the cardiovascular benefits, you have to make the effort.”

Do you know your risk for heart disease? Take our heart risk assessment here. If you are at high risk, see one of Advocate Heart Institute’scardiologists within 24 hours.

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  1. Yoga,
    has been a great help to me.
    I notice that pain in my right hip vanishes
    after I finish Yoga class.
    also my asthma is more fully controlled
    with Yoga breathing….
    I feel it reduces my stress which at times
    can be intense.


  2. I do yoga several times a week and it helps a lot with my lower back pain! It can definitely be a good workout too.

  3. Dr. Ashwani Garg

    Yoga is great for both men and women, and is appropriate for all ages and ability levels. The routines can be modified for different levels of fitness. Yoga is actually part of the brand new intensive cardiac rehab program at UCLA, set up in consultation with Healthways and Dr. Dean Ornish. Hopefully one day Advocate Health Care will incorporate yoga into their cardiac rehab and make it available as part of a Medicare-covered benefit as did UCLA. One great podcast on Iphone/Ipad is Yogadownload; similarly a great children’s yoga program is available called “Cosmic Kids Yoga” on Youtube – each routine tells a story and is great for small children to start. Thank you, Dr. Kadakia for promoting yoga as an option for your patients.

  4. I might have to start doing yoga!

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.