Improve Health with Yoga for the Obese

By John M. de Castro


“Countless times I’ve been told that someone would do yoga, but only after they’ve lost weight. Unfortunately, this eliminates yoga as a tool for reclaiming their health based on their idea that yoga is only for the already thin and flexible. In fact, yoga can be done by everyone — lying in bed, sitting in a wheelchair or standing only for brief moments, the benefits of yoga can still be yours.” – Abby Lentz


Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population, while two thirds of the population is considered overweight or obese (BMI > 25). Although the incidence rates have appeared to stabilize, the fact that over a third of the population is considered obese is very troubling.

This is because of the health consequences of obesity. Obesity has been found to shorten life expectancy by eight years and extreme obesity by 14 years. This occurs because obesity is associated with cardiovascular problems such as coronary heart disease and hypertension, stroke, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and others. Obviously there is a need for effective treatments to prevent or treat obesity. But, despite copious research and a myriad of dietary and exercise programs, there still is no safe and effective treatment.


Mindfulness is known to be associated with lower risk for obesity. This suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for overeating and obesity. Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of physical and psychological benefits. These include significant loss in weight and body mass index (BMI), resting metabolism, and body fat in obese women with Type 2 diabetes. Hence it would seem reasonable to investigate the benefits of particular aspects of yoga practice on the obese.


In today’s Research News article “Comparison of Stretching and Resistance Training on Glycemia, Total and Regional Body Composition, and Aerobic Fitness in Overweight Women”

or below, or for the full text:

Ruby and colleagues test yoga stretching for its effectiveness in treating obesity in women. They randomly assigned otherwise healthy overweight women to three groups, 10-week, 3-day per week, yoga stretching, 10-week, 3-day per week, resistance exercise, or diet only. “All participants consumed a protein-pacing, balanced diet (50% CHO, 25% PRO, 25% FAT) designed to meet 100% of their estimated energy needs throughout the intervention.”


They found that all three groups had improvements in waist circumference and total blood cholesterol levels. Both the yoga and resistance exercise groups also showed a significant improvement in aerobic fitness and also total and abdominal fat. The yoga group alone showed a reduction in their weight and body mass index and improvement in blood glucose levels. These effects are important as cholesterol levels are associated with cardiovascular disease and glucose levels with diabetes. Diet alone was helpful, but adding exercise produced further physical improvements in the women, and with yoga as the exercise the effects extended to weight, body mass, and blood glucose.


Yoga exercise is safe as there are very few reports of adverse consequences of engaging in supervised practice. In addition, yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of physical and psychological benefits beyond its effects on the overweight and obese. This suggests that yoga may be an excellent exercise program for the treatment of overweight and obesity.


So, improve health with yoga for the obese.


“A healthy body can be a home to calm and receptive mind. It not only makes you look good but also adds confidence. It also takes you away from health risks so that you can enjoy life more freely. Yoga helps you gain all this by losing what harms your body. It’s a perfect win-win situation where you lose weight and gain back control of your body. So, roll out your yoga mat and take the natural route to fighting obesity today.”  – The Art of Living


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies



Study Summary

Ruby M, Repka CP, Arciero PJ. Comparison of Stretching and Resistance Training on Glycemia, Total and Regional Body Composition, and Aerobic Fitness in Overweight Women. J Phys Act Health. 2016 Feb 19. [Epub ahead of print] DOI:


BACKGROUND: Yoga/Stretching (S) and functional resistance (R) training are popular exercise routines. A protein-pacing (P) diet is a common dietary regimen. Thus, we assessed the effectiveness of a P diet alone and in combination with either S or R to improve body composition and cardiometabolic health.

METHODS: Twenty seven overweight women (age= 43.2± 4.6 years) were randomized into three groups: yoga (S, n=8) or resistance (R, n=10) training (3 days/week) in conjunction with P diet (50% carbohydrate, 25% protein, and 25% fat) or P diet-only (P, n=9) throughout 12-week study. P maintained pre-existing levels of physical activity. Body weight (BW), total (BF) and abdominal (ABF) body fat, waist circumference (WC), plasma biomarkers, and aerobic fitness (VO2) were measured at baseline and 12 weeks.

RESULTS: WC and total cholesterol improved in all groups, whereas glycemia tended to improve (P=0.06) in S. BF, ABF, and VO2 increased significantly in S and R (P<0.05). Feelings of vigor increased in S and tension decreased in R (P<0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: S training tended to decrease blood glucose compared to R and P and is equally effective at enhancing body composition, and aerobic fitness in overweight women providing a strong rationale for further research on S training.


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