The research, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, reviewed 37 randomized controlled trials — the gold-standard of study designs — including 2,768 people and a nearly even gender split.
Compared to people who don’t exercise, those who did yoga showed significant improvement in their BMI, blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol, the review found. In fact, yoga performed just as well as exercise, like cycling or brisk walking, at weight loss and blood pressure measures.
How much you need to practice to reap the benefits remains unclear, the study authors note, as does the mechanism. But they think they may have an inkling: the authors credit stress reduction as one potential way that yoga improves metabolic and heart function, as well as inflammation. Yoga has also been proven to manage chronic illnesses and pain, especially in the lower back.
As yoga captures the minds and bodies of more and more people around the world, there’s a real need for more rigorous research, the study authors write. “This review demonstrates the potential of yoga to have an impact on concrete, physiological outcomes that represent some of the greatest health burdens today.”
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