PHILADELPHIA — Adding yoga to a regular exercise routine can reduce your risk of developing heart disease, according to new research. The study reveals that the discipline, which originated in ancient India, is much more than just muscle stretching. Researchers in Canada found that yoga can lower blood pressure, resting heart rate, and improve a person’s 10-year cardiovascular risk.
Millions of people worldwide take up yoga as part of their physical and spiritual exercise routine. Previous studies have shown that it can also help relieve symptoms of atrial fibrillation and various mental health conditions.
“The aim of this pilot study was to determine whether the addition of yoga to a regular exercise training regimen reduces cardiovascular risk,” explains lead investigator Paul Poirier, MD, PhD, from the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute at Laval University, in a media release.
“While there is some evidence that yoga interventions and exercise have equal and/or superior cardiovascular outcomes, there is considerable variability in yoga types, components, frequency, session length, duration, and intensity. We sought to apply a rigorous scientific approach to identify cardiovascular risk factors for which yoga is beneficial for at-risk patients and ways it could be applied in a healthcare setting such as a primary prevention program.”
A 45-minute workout including yoga can lower heart attack risk
With yoga practice becoming a widely accepted form of exercise, the body of yoga research is growing. Researchers recruited 60 people diagnosed with high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome — the combination of high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Each participant took part in a three-month exercise training program.
Study authors split the participants into two groups. Each group took part in 15 minutes of either structured yoga or stretching, in addition to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week. The team measured blood pressure, physical size and form, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and glucose and lipids levels during the experiment.
Researchers also took Framingham and Reynolds Risk Scores. Both of these scores predict a person’s risk of having a heart attack or other major cardiovascular problems.
“This study provides evidence for an additional non-pharmacologic therapy option for cardiovascular risk reduction and blood pressure control in patients with high blood pressure, in the setting of a primary prevention exercise program,” notes Dr. Poirier.
“As observed in several studies, we recommend that patients try to find exercise and stress relief for the management of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in whatever form they find most appealing. Our study shows that structured yoga practices can be a healthier addition to aerobic exercise than simply muscle stretching.”
The study is published by Elsevier in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
South West News Service writer Alice Clifford contributed to this report.