Yoga is an ancient practice. Its longevity would suggest that it has observable benefits for its practitioners. Although for years anecdotal evidence supported this notion, it has only recently been demonstrated with modern controlled research studies that yoga indeed is beneficial for health and well-being.
In a previous post, yoga practice was shown to reduce the symptoms of the Metabolic Syndrome a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
In another previous post, it was demonstrated the yoga practice improves the immune system
and in yet another post, yoga was shown to delay the decline in strength and flexibility on ageing individuals.
In today’s Research News article “Effects of a 12-Week Hatha Yoga Intervention on Cardiorespiratory Endurance, Muscular Strength and Endurance, and Flexibility in Hong Kong Chinese Adults: A Controlled Clinical Trial.”
Lau and colleagues demonstrate that yoga improves cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility in both male and female adults.
One of the keys to any program for physical health is its acceptability. There are a large number of different varieties of fitness programs all of which can improve health if practiced. But many are disliked by participants who discontinue participation or only sporadically engage in the program. Lau and colleagues found that that people like yoga practice and so stick with it. Participants attended 94% of the available classes and only 11% dropped out. A practice is only as good a people’s willingness to engage in it and yoga practice appears to pass this test, making it a very good choice for physical health.
The fact that yoga is often practiced in groups may account, in part, for its enjoyability and the high participation rates. The presence of others provides support and camaraderie. The participant discussions that can precede and follow the practice can be helpful in learning about the progressions and difficulties encountered by others, making one’s own difficulties seem more normal and acceptable and setting more realistic expectations for future progress.
It would be expected that yoga would improve muscular strength and flexibility. After all that is what it’s designed to do. But the improvement in cardiovascular endurance is an important bonus. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death in the U.S. killing 800,000 people each year. The observed improvement in cardiorespiratory endurance along with the prior findings of effectiveness for metabolic syndrome, suggest that yoga could help prevent cardiovascular disease and increase longevity.
So, practice the enjoyable exercise of yoga and improve your health.