A new research suggests that yoga, “a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practised for health and relaxation,” may be a good way to protect against heart disease, particularly for those who cannot endure vigorous exercise. A review of 37 studies in the Netherlands involving nearly 3,000 people found that yoga was independently linked to a lowering of heart risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
There are lots of different types of yoga—tantric, Hatha and Ashtanga, to name a few but most are not strenuous enough to count towards the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity some health experts say is required to give the heart and lungs a workout.
Myriam Hunink, from Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, set out to investigate what effect, if any, yoga might have on heart health. Compared with no exercise, yoga had significant benefits. It was linked to a lower risk of obesity, high blood pressure and raised cholesterol, the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reports. When compared with other types of exercise, such as brisk walking or jogging, yoga was no better or worse based on the same measures of heart risk.
“These results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and in my view worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice,” Hunink said.
Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said the benefits could be due to working the muscles and breathing, which can bring more oxygen into the body, leading to lower blood pressure. But she added that “a larger study is recommended though to assess the effects of yoga more fully.”
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