You know you should exercise, but you’re just not a runner. You’ve tried brisk walking, but you’re really not into that either. Sometimes you think if the heart attack doesn’t kill you, the guilt will. You just don’t like aerobic exercise. Good news! A new study says that you may not need it after all.
The European Society of Cardiology looked at 37 trials and found that yoga may provide the same benefits in reducing risks for cardiovascular problems as traditional aerobic activities like running, biking, or brisk walking.
Results showed 1) that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those doing yoga than in those doing no exercise, and 2) that yoga had a beneficial effect on these risks that was comparable to exercise.
Compared to no exercise, yoga showed substantial benefits:
- Body mass index was reduced
- Systolic blood pressure reduced
- LDL reduced
- HDL increased
- Body weight fell
- Diastolic blood pressure fell
- Total cholesterol fell
- Heart rate lowered
Among patients with existing coronary heart disease, yoga provided a statistically significant benefit in lowering LDL cholesterol when added to medication (statins and lipid-lowering drugs).
Perhaps most surprising, compared to exercise, yoga showed effects in lowering risk factors that were comparable to aerobic exercise.
The investigators note that this might be because of yoga’s impact on stress reduction, “leading to positive impacts on neuroendocrine status, metabolic and cardio-vagal function.”
The researchers think that the similarities between the benefits of yoga and aerobic exercise may indicate that there are “comparable working mechanisms, with some possible physiological aerobic benefits occurring with yoga practice, and some stress-reducing, relaxation effect occurring with aerobic exercise.”
This may all be very good news for people who can’t take up vigorous exercise, such as those with cardiac conditions or joint pain. Or for those of us who just hate running.