It’s well known that biking, walking, and running are good for cardiovascular health, and now research is suggesting yoga provides similar benefits.
Forbes reports that a study published by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology “found that practicing yoga had the same effect on reducing cardiovascular markers as other forms of exercise, like brisk walking or biking.”
Benefits included lower BMIs, reduced bad cholesterol, increased good cholesterol, and improved heart rate and blood pressure. Notably, this includes people across the spectrum of health and activity, meaning fit, healthy people and unhealthy people alike could see cardiovascular benefits from practicing yoga.
CBS News Medical Contributor Dr. Tara Narula explains that yoga’s cardio improvements come in a different way than from the aerobic work done in cycling or running.
“In terms of the postures, there’s probably benefits to the muscles in how they process blood sugar, as well as improved aerobic fitness depending on how strenuous the yoga is,” she said.
She added that the primary benefits probably come from the stress reduction element of the practice, saying “You’re lowering your blood pressure, lowering your heart rate and respiratory rate, and decreasing those stress hormones.”
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While the findings are great news for those who already enjoy yoga, the authors say the results are important especially for those for whom aerobic exercise is not an option.
Medical News Today quotes the study authors as saying “”This finding is significant, as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in [cardiovascular] risk reduction.”
Specifically, the MNT article lists those with “pre-existing cardiac conditions, lower physical tolerance, the elderly or those with musculoskeletal or joint pain,” as likely candidates for using yoga as a replacement activity for aerobic exercise, and suggests the practice could prove to be a cheap but effective element in treating and preventing illness.