Regular yoga practice may reduce heart disease risk as effectively as brisk walking or biking, according to a research review in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology (2014; doi: 10.1177/2047487314562741). Researchers from Harvard University, in Boston, and Erasmus University Medical Center, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, conducted the review of 37 randomized controlled trials with a total of 2,768 subjects.
Review results showed that those who practiced yoga saw significant improvement in each of the primary heart-disease risk factors—blood pressure, body mass index, and both LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. The only risk factor unaffected by yoga practice was blood sugar levels. Yoga also provided significant benefits for those who practiced it in conjunction with medication treatment for a specific condition, such as high blood pressure.
Myriam Hunink, PhD, senior study author from Erasmus University Medical Center, said in a European Society of Cardiology news release, “Although evidence of yoga’s beneficial effect in cardiovascular health is growing, a physiological explanation for this effect remains unclear. Also unclear are the dose-response relationship and the relative costs and benefits of yoga when compared to exercise or medication. However, these results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and . . . worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice.”