Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and disability in all developed countries. An integral part of primary prevention mainly focusing on modifiable risk factors is physical activity. A new study shows that yoga practices are better in some cardiorespiratory fitness parameters than other aerobic activities recommended by current guidelines for CVD prevention.
Worldwide, studies have been published that document the beneficial effect of regular yoga exercises on human health. Most studies conclude that yoga sessions represent low levels of physical activity (a mean MET value across a session of 2.5) and do not meet recommendations for levels of physical activity for improving cardiovascular fitness.
In this research, a total of 58 persons comprising the yoga group (16 males and 42 females) with a mean age of 50.0 ± 11.06 years (range, 31-70 years;) were examined. The inclusion criterion was to practice yoga in accordance with the system Yoga in Daily Life for at least 1 h a day for over 2 years (it response with Guidelines given by American Heart Association). Yoga in Daily Life is built on the principles of traditional Indian yoga and adapted to the modern lifestyle (relaxation, asanas…).
The control group was comprised of 54 individuals (16 males and 38 females) with a mean age of 48 ± 11.86 years (range, 25-70 years). The inclusion criterion was a regular aerobic physical activity performed for at least 7 h a week (brisk walking, jogging, cycling, dancing). The two groups were matched for age (P = 1.0) and gender (P = 0.837).
The following parameters were investigated: Resting heart rate (HR rest ), resting blood pressure (BP rest ), maximum heart rate (HR max ), blood pressure at maximum exertion, maximum performance (W max /kg), maximum oxygen consumption per kilogram per minute (VO 2max/kg/min), maximum metabolic equivalent (MET max ), maximum minute ventilation (V Emax ), VCO 2max , maximum carbon dioxide production, and respiratory exchange ratio (RER).
The results, adjusted for BMI, showed that the yoga group had statistically significantly higher W max /kg and VO 2max /kg/min despite lower V Emax , VO 2max , and VCO 2max .
Physical performance improvement was speculated to be owing to both better economy of breathing and improvement in cardiovascular reserve, with other factors such as psycho-physiological and better relaxation possibly contributing.
The study concludes that the group practicing Yoga in the Daily Life system had better aerobic performance than controls performing other aerobic physical activity for the same amount of time per week.
Thus, in spite of low energy expenditure during sessions, yoga has a positive effect on individuals’ aerobic performance and could be an effective activity for CVD prevention.