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If you’re a yogi like me, this new scientific review will not come as a surprise. You can probably feel the health benefits with each practice—you’re getting a little stronger, a little leaner and a little more stress-free as you move through each flow.
Now, new research from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology is backing you up. Researchers combed through databases to review as many studies providing data on the potential benefits of yoga on cardiovascular disease and risk factors for metabolic syndrome like obesity, high blood pressure and poor cholesterol.
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Studies were included in the overall survey if they were published through December 2013, written in English, peer-reviewed and reported specifically on asana-based yoga and on the practice’s impacts on key health conditions. Of 1404 studies, 37 fit this criteria and were included in the systematic review, and 32 were included in the meta-analysis.
Researchers found a laundry list of benefits for yogis on overall health, especially on reducing risk factors for major diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Compared to non-exercisers, yoga showed lower BMIs, lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol, as well as weight loss and lower triglyceride levels (which may lead to heart disease). It is important to keep in mind that the participant’s average age was 50 years old, and included a wide spectrum of people from healthy to those with heart disease history study author Paula Chu tells Reuters Health.
Basically, this study helps lend weight to the idea that yoga can be considered an acceptable substitute for aerobic-like exercise such as walking and biking, as it seems to provide similar protective cardiovascular health benefits. The explanation behind yoga’s superpowers probably has something to do with the stress-reduction factor, the researchers say. Unchecked stress can be a nasty beast, and managing it is a proven way to help fight back against metabolic and cardio issues. Whoo!
Of course, there are benefits to traditional cardiovascular exercise that extends beyond heart health. And, additional research is needed to determine whether there is a difference between the style of yoga and regularity of practice needed to see these benefits. So, while yoga does seem to do everything, it doesn’t mean you should ditch running, rowing, swimming, etc., if that’s what you love to do. But it does mean that your time on the mat is extra beneficial.
By Jenna Birch
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