Improve Physical and Mental Health in Obesity with Dieting and Yoga Practice

Improve Physical and Mental Health in Obesity with Dieting and Yoga Practice


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


The mental component of yoga—the deep breathing, positive meditation and awareness—can boost confidence for people of all waistlines. “Yoga helps give you insight, and perhaps that insight can help you make better choices and eliminate negative self-talk.” – Abby Lentz


Obesity has become an epidemic in the industrialized world. In the U.S. the incidence of obesity, has more than doubled over the last 35 years to currently around 35% of the population, while two thirds of the population are considered overweight or obese (Body Mass Index; 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 obesityalter eating behavior and improve health in obesity. This suggests that mindfulness training may be an effective treatment for overeating and obesity alone or in combination with other therapies. 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 diabetesreduce weight and improve health in the obese. Hence it would seem reasonable to investigate the benefits of yoga in combination with a dietary plan on the weight and body composition of the obese.


In today’s Research News article “Twelve Weeks of Yoga or Nutritional Advice for Centrally Obese Adult Females.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: ), Telles and colleagues recruited overweight and obese women (BMI>25) and randomly assigned them to either practice yoga or receive nutrition education. Yoga was practiced for 75 minutes, 3 days per week for 12 weeks and consisted of postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation. Nutrition education occurred for 45 minutes, once a week for 12 weeks. Both groups also were placed on a vegetarian dietary plan consisting in 1900-2000 Kcal per day. Participants were measured before and after training for body size, food intake, physical activity, and quality of life and plasma levels of fats.


Both groups saw improvements in body size including reductions in waist circumference, sagittal abdominal diameter, hip circumference, BMI, body shape index, conicity index, abdominal volume index, and body roundness index. Hence, the diet was successful in reducing body size. The groups also showed significant decreases in plasma total cholesterol, and increases in general self-esteem, and total quality of life. The yoga group, however, had a significantly greater reduction in body shape index, and plasma total cholesterol and very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). They found that the women between the ages of 30 to 45 years who practiced yoga had the greatest benefits while there was little benefit in the nutritional education group. For the women between the ages of 46 to 59 years both groups showed comparable benefits.


These results suggest that overweight and obese women who are dieting show significant improvements in body size, blood fats, and quality of life regardless of whether they receive additional yoga practice or nutritional education, with yoga practice producing slightly better results. But, yoga practice has significantly greater effectiveness for the younger women. This suggests that yoga practice is an effective treatment in combination with dieting for the improvement of obese women’s body size, plasma characteristics, and quality of life, particularly for women between the ages of 30-45 years. This is important as the combination of yoga practice and dieting may be an effective strategy to improve the health and well-being of overweight and obese women.


So, improve physical and mental health in obesity with dieting and yoga practice.


“Yoga does not offer quick weight loss. However, it does offer long lasting effects. Initially, you may feel that you aren’t making any progress with weight loss but you’ll start feeling more active and alive inside. Eventually, the body will start responding and come back in good shape.” – Art of Living


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Telles, S., Sharma, S. K., Kala, N., Pal, S., Gupta, R. K., & Balkrishna, A. (2018). Twelve Weeks of Yoga or Nutritional Advice for Centrally Obese Adult Females. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 9, 466.



Background: Central obesity is associated with a higher risk of disease. Previously yoga reduced the BMI and waist circumference (WC) in persons with obesity. Additional anthropometric measures and indices predict the risk of developing diseases associated with central obesity. Hence the present study aimed to assess the effects of 12 weeks of yoga or nutritional advice on these measures. The secondary aim was to determine the changes in quality of life (QoL) given the importance of psychological factors in obesity.

Material and Methods: Twenty-six adult females with central obesity in a yoga group (YOG) were compared with 26 adult females in a nutritional advice group (NAG). Yoga was practiced for 75 min/day, 3 days/week and included postures, breathing practices and guided relaxation. The NAG had one 45 min presentation/week on nutrition. Assessments were at baseline and 12 weeks. Data were analyzed with repeated measures ANOVA and post-hoc comparisons. Age-wise comparisons were with t-tests.

Results: At baseline and 12 weeks NAG had higher triglycerides and VLDL than YOG. Other comparisons are within the two groups. After 12 weeks NAG showed a significant decrease in WC, hip circumference (HC), abdominal volume index (AVI), body roundness index (BRI), a significant increase in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. YOG had a significant decrease in WC, sagittal abdominal diameter, HC, BMI, WC/HC, a body shape index, conicity index, AVI, BRI, HDL cholesterol, and improved QoL. With age-wise analyses, in the 30–45 years age range the YOG showed most of the changes mentioned above whereas NAG showed no changes. In contrast for the 46–59 years age range most of the changes in the two groups were comparable.

Conclusions: Yoga and nutritional advice with a diet plan can reduce anthropometric measures associated with diseases related to central obesity, with more changes in the YOG. This was greater for the 30–45 year age range, where the NAG showed no change; while changes were comparable for the two groups in the 46–59 year age range. Hence yoga may be especially useful for adult females with central obesity between 30 and 45 years of age.


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