Can Yoga Benefit Your Heart Health?

Aerobic exercise has long been known to strengthen and protect the heart from heart disease says Dr. Davis of Bradenton Heart Center. However, there are new research studies that point to similar heart health benefits from doing yoga versus aerobic exercise. This can may be excellent news for those who want to improve their heart health, yet need a lower impact form of exercise.

Research on the Benefits of Yoga

Yoga has been used for thousands of years to improve strength, balance and focus. Controlled breathing and specific movements are used to reduce stress and improve both mental and physical well-being. Originating in India, yoga has become increasingly popular in the west, especially in the last few decades.

Although yoga has long been touted as a healthy activity, it was not necessarily considered a benefit for heart health in comparison to aerobic exercise. However, in recent years, there have been over 37 clinical studies on the effects of yoga on health, including cardiovascular disease. A study of the results have been promising. Some of the preliminary findings show improvements in several heart disease factors, including:

  • Lowered blood pressure. On average, the study showed a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic dropped an average of 5.21mm HG and diastolic an average of 4.9 mm HG.
  • Lowered heart rate. Heart rate was reduced by over five beats per minute as an average on over 2,700 participants in these yoga studies.
  • Lowered cholesterol. Both HDL and LDL cholesterol was lowered, with the HDL or “bad” cholesterol dropping by an average of 12.14 mg/dl.
  • Lowered body weight. Participants in the studies lost an average of five pounds while using yoga as a form of exercise.

The studies compared yoga against those that performed aerobic exercise and those who did not exercise regularly. What is particularly interesting is that when compared to aerobic exercise, yoga offered similar heart-health benefits.

Is Yoga Right for You?

For those with limited range of motion or other physical impairments, yoga may be an alternative to aerobic exercise to improve cardiovascular health. Since it has become a mainstream form of exercise, most health clubs offer yoga classes, along with private yoga studios. Some people that may benefit from using yoga for heart health include:

  • Elderly persons. Yoga is a safe and effective exercise for individuals that are elderly that may not be able to perform some types of aerobic activities.
  • Joint problems. For individuals with knee or joint problems, yoga offers low impact exercise, mostly performed on the floor.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Anyone suffering from cardiovascular disease may benefit from adding yoga to their exercise routine.

The results of these studies show promising benefits from using yoga as part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. It may offer an alternative to high-impact aerobic exercise, or be a beneficial activity to add to your existing exercise routine. As always, discuss changes in your exercise regimen with your physician, especially if you have a heart condition.