For years, aerobic exercises have been regarded as numerous health benefits, including improving cardiovascular health, better mood, increased energy and stronger bones and muscles. But there is another form of physical activity that conquers the titles – yoga.
Some studies suggest that the practice of mind can be good for heart health, from lowering blood pressure and cholesterol to reducing stress and body mass index.
Americans get on the mats
While yoga is often associated with images of practitioners of limber, it is more than just stretching and hands. With Indian origin, yoga includes physical phenomena (asana), breath (pranayama) and meditation. There are many styles of yoga, including Hatha, Yehengar, restorative and warm yoga, each with a special emphasis such as alignment or relaxation.
Recently, more Americans are retired. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14.3% of adults in the United States – or 35.2 million – practiced yoga in 2017, from 9.5% in 2012. Many take this practice as a holistic approach to health and health, and because of stress-A cool effect.
"There is a huge body of literature that says that psychosocial stresses, such as work and marital stress, as well as anxiety and depression, are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Puya Mehta, MD in Medicine Cardiology at the School of Medicine at the Emory University in Atlanta. "With chronic stress, the sympathetic nervous system is too big." This can lead to inflammation and increased blood pressure.
Yoga can help by stopping the stress response of the organism by activating the parasympathetic nervous system or the "rest and digestive system" through deep breathing and relaxation, Mehta said. Stimulating awareness can also encourage participants to engage in other habits that enhance cardiovascular health by promoting self-awareness and self-behavior.
"This can have a major impact on supporting healthy eating behavior and physical activity," said Dr. Gloria Yeh, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of mind research at Beth Israel's Medical Center in Dijonos Boston.
Benefits extend to heart disease
Studies have also shown that yoga can reduce cardiovascular risk factors. Yeh co-author of a review of clinical research published in 2014 European Journal of Preventive Cardiology who found that yoga had a significant effect on cardiometabolic risk factors compared to that they did not exercise at all.
For example, yoga reduced total cholesterol by 18.48 mg / dl and triglycerides by 25.89 mg / dl more than the change seen in the control group. Blood pressure has improved too. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased 5.21 mmHg and 4.98 mmHg, respectively.
The benefits also spread to people with heart disease. Among people with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, in which symptoms come and go, 12-week yoga combined with deep breathing resulted in a lower pulse, lower blood pressure, and higher mental health results compared to those who did not make yoga, according to a 2016 study published in European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing.
Mehta said that although these and other scientific studies show promising results, there are some limitations, such as a small number of participants. In addition, since yoga covers different elements, there is no standard dose of yoga, making it difficult to compare the studies, she said.
Very different styles and accents
Both Yeh and Mehta said that more research is needed, including more randomized clinical trials and a better understanding of the precise mechanism behind the cardiovascular benefits of yoga.
"We need to better understand who yoga can be more beneficial and how," said Yah. "Because yoga is so heterogeneous with many different styles and accents, we would like to match the real exercises with the right people at the right time. We need to understand how best to integrate yoga with other life-styles."
And the biggest research question remains, Mehta said: "Will you live longer and have no cardiovascular events such as heart attack or stroke?"
For older adults and people new to yoga, Mehta recommends looking for gentle, restorative or classroom-based lessons. People with heart disease or high blood pressure may need to modify some positions and avoid the positions that put their head under the heart, she said. Experts also suggest that pregnant women are particularly distant from "hot yoga" or from yoga classes that take place in a heated room, due to the risk of overheating and dehydration.
The bottom line, Yeh said, is that yoga practicing is "every exercise is better than exercise, so that the activity that somebody will do – and enjoy it – will be the one that provides the most benefit."
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