Yoga contributes to cardiovascular health and well-being: study

The regular practice of Yoga is more beneficial than stretching exercises for improving cardiovascular health and well-being, a new study has revealed.

The three-month pilot study of patients with hypertension published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found that incorporating Yoga in the regular exercise training regimen helped reduce systolic blood pressure and resting heart rate, which lower the 10-year cardiovascular risk.

Yoga practice is fast growing as a widely accepted form of exercise and has several similarities to physical exercises such as stretching, but also important differences.

“The aim of this pilot study was to determine whether the addition of Yoga to a regular exercise training regimen reduces cardiovascular risk,” said lead investigator Paul Poirier of the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute.

“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,” he added.

Investigators recruited 60 individuals with previously diagnosed high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome for an exercise training program. Over the 3-month intervention regimen, participants were divided into 2 groups, which performed 15 minutes of either structured yoga or stretching in addition to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise training 5 times weekly.

Blood pressure, anthropometry, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), glucose and lipids levels as well as the Framingham and Reynolds Risk Scores were measured.

After three months, there was a decrease in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial blood pressure, and heart rate in both groups. However, systolic blood pressure was reduced by 10 mmHg with yoga vs 4 mmHg with stretching. The yoga approach also reduced resting heart rate and 10-year cardiovascular risk assessed using Reynold’s Risk score.

While yoga has been shown to benefit hypertensive patients, the exact mechanism underlying this positive effect is not fully understood. This pilot randomized study shows that its benefits cannot be simply attributed to stretching alone.

“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,” Dr. Poirier pointed out.

“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,” he added.

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