Increase Resting Metabolic Rate in Obese Women with Yoga

Increase Resting Metabolic Rate in Obese Women with Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


You get to thinking that yoga and its health benefits, such as stress reduction and improved fitness, are best for thin people, and not so much for the 36 percent of U.S. adults who are obese. Not true. Yoga is for all types of shapes and sizes.” – Laura McMullen


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 are considered overweight or obese (BMI > 25). 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 obese individuals. 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 may be particularly beneficial for the obese as it is both a mindfulness practice and an exercise. Yoga practice has been shown to have a myriad of physical and psychological benefits. These include significant loss of body weight and improvement in health in the obese.


In today’s Research News article “Comparing between the effect of energy-restricted diet and yoga on the resting metabolic rate, anthropometric indices, and serum adipokine levels in overweight and obese staff women.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: Yazdanparast and colleagues recruited healthy adulty overweight and obese women and randomly assigned them to receive 8 weeks of either a balanced restricted diet with a reduction in about 500 Kcal per day or to 5 days per week in class and home weekend practice of 1 hour Hatha yoga practice (estimated to expend 200 Kcal per day) in combination with a balanced restricted diet with a reduction in about 300 Kcal per day. They were measured before and after the 8-week practice period for resting metabolic rate, body size, blood lipids, blood glucose, leptin, and blood adiponectin.


They found that after the 8-week intervention both groups had significant reductions in body size and blood leptin levels but the yoga plus diet group also had significant increases in the resting metabolic rate and blood adiponectin levels while the diet alone group did not. On the other hand, the diet only group had a significant reduction in blood high density lipoprotein – cholesterol that did not occur in the yoga plus diet group.


These results are particularly interesting because the two groups were estimated to have the same deficit in caloric intake plus expenditure with the diet only group having a 500 Kcal per day reduction in intake while the yoga plus diet group had a 300 Kcal per day reduction in intake along with a 200 KCAL per day increase in expenditure. Hence the differences in the results for the two groups were not due to differences in total energy reduction.


This suggests that yoga practice has the extra benefit over diet alone of increasing the resting metabolic rate and blood adiponectin levels. Adiponectin is an anti-inflammatory protein that is secreted by fat cells but is decreased with obesity. The reduction in the yoga group suggests that the yoga practice may produce a reduction in inflammation in the women. Indeed, such a reduction in the inflammatory response produced by yoga practice has been documented previously. A reduction in inflammation is greatly beneficial to the overall health of the women.


The reduction in the resting metabolic rate represents the baseline caloric expenditure independent of activity. Hence, its reduction in the yoga group suggests that yoga practice increases energy expenditure all day long regardless of activity, increasing overall expenditure. This should, over time, produce an increased weight reduction. Indeed, the current study and  previous research has found the yoga practice reduces body size.


So, Increase Resting Metabolic Rate in Obese Women with Yoga.


“The benefits of practice are endless. As a light form of aerobic exercise, yoga can help to alleviate common symptoms of being affected by obesity.” – Laurel Dierking


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


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Study Summary


Yazdanparast, F., Jafarirad, S., Borazjani, F., Haghighizadeh, M. H., & Jahanshahi, A. (2020). Comparing between the effect of energy-restricted diet and yoga on the resting metabolic rate, anthropometric indices, and serum adipokine levels in overweight and obese staff women. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 25, 37.




Weight management is an important strategy to prevent the consequences of obesity. The aim of the study was to compare the effect of yoga practice and energy-restricted diet on resting metabolic rate (RMR), anthropometric indices, and serum adiponectin and leptin in overweight and obese women.

Materials and Methods:

Obese or overweight women were divided into two groups: yoga practicing and energy-restricted diet. Exercise trials consisted of 60-min Hatha yoga equal to 200 kilocalories (kcal) combined with 300 kcal restriction per day, and an energy-restricted diet consisted of 500 kcal restriction per day. The intervention period for both the groups was 8 weeks. RMR, anthropometric indices, and serum adiponectin, leptin, and lipid profiles were measured at baseline and at the end of the study.


RMR was increased in yoga but not in the diet group (P = 0.001). The level of adiponectin was increased in the yoga group compared with the diet (P = 0.035). The concentration of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol was decreased in the diet group significantly but not in yoga (P = 0.006). The level of leptin was decreased in both the groups (P = 0.001), and there were no significant differences between the two groups.


The findings of the study demonstrated the effect of yoga practicing on RMR, and serum adiponectin, in overweight and obese women. It seems yoga practice with less energy restriction compared with a common energy restriction diet and is more effective in weight management for those who are in weight loss programs.