Heart disease remains the number one killer of both men and women. Exercise and increased activity levels remains at the top of the heart healthy lifestyle changes list. But does exercise have to look or feel a certain way to improve heart health?
Yoga looks nothing like the traditional aerobic exercise of walking, running, swimming or hiking. Yoga combines postural exercises, breathing techniques and meditation. According to Dr. Klodas, MD, a preventive cardiologist from Minneapolis, it can influence how the nervous system signals the heart—in a good and calming way. Could it be, then, that yoga creates heart-healthy changes in the body?
The results of a recent research study of yoga versus no exercise showed that those who practiced yoga experienced a significant improvement in cardiac risk factors. On average, they lost 5.2 pounds of body weight, lowered their blood pressure by 5 mm/hg, and improved their cholesterol profiles by decreasing their LDL/bad cholesterol and increasing HDL/good cholesterol. In nine studies, yoga practice was comparable to aerobic exercise for weight loss, blood pressure and cholesterol measures.
The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent network of researchers, emphasized that the degree of improvement in physical health from yoga will vary according to how (or how much) an individual practices.
As with any type of exercise program, always ask your physician if it is safe for you to get started. Namaste!