Research Proving Yoga Works In Reducing Body Fat, Blood Pressure, and Decreasing Cardiovascular Risk.\ Did you know that heart disease, medically known as Cardiovascular Disease, or CVD, is the number one killer and disabler in developed nations including the United States? Even more scary is the fact that for many, heart disease does not have to kill. This preventable disease is linked to many other health conditions some of which you may already have or are at risk for.\ One of the highest risks for heart disease is a collection of health issues known as *Insulin Resistance* (IRS) or metabolic syndrome. The main features of IRS are excess belly fat, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance, and high cholesterol of the unhealthy kind.\ Interestingly, a recent investigation has shown that up to 70 studies have proven that yoga can help reduce many of the above mentioned diseases and risks associated with heart disease. Better still, both healthy and unhealthy individuals reaped benefits from yoga.\ Yoga: A Physical And Mental Discipline\ Yoga is an ancient mind-body discipline that originated in India over 4,000 years ago. There are many styles of Hindu yoga including Raja, or classical, Hatha, forceful, and Mantra, chanting. Raja and Hatha yoga both have specific postures known as asanas, encompassing both relaxing and active positions, along with concentration, known as dharana, meditation, called dhyana, and breath control, also known as pranayama. Hatha yoga is one of the best known forms of yoga in the Western world and includes the Bikram, Ashtanga, Kundalini, and Integral styles.\ Yoga has become increasingly popular in the US as a noninvasive activity that can improve fitness, reduce stress levels, and reduce obesity. Yoga can be taken up by folk in all states of health and fitness, and is simple to learn. Yoga does not require much financial outlay or equipment, and has\ had no reported ill effects.\ Where Did The Yoga Studies Come From?\ The investigation was led by the team of Dr. Kim E. Innes from the university of Virginia (USA). The studies were all sourced from libraries in the United States. 63% of the 70 studies collated were published between 1990 and 2004. The studies had to be written in English and were all published after 1970. Nations that had performed and published studies included the United States, the United Kingdom, European countries, and India.\ The studies were only analysed if they had evaluated the effects of yoga on IRS, or heart disease. Factors such as body weight, insulin resistance, belly fat, blood pressure, blood fats or lipids, or oxidative stress needed to be investigated.\ The Scientific Findings.\ There was strong evidence to prove that yoga has a beneficial effect on many of the physical and emotional factors contributing to heart disease.\ Reduced Belly Fat and Weight Loss\ 18 trials studied the impact of yoga on body weight and fat deposits, in time frames ranging from 4 weeks to 1 year. Healthy participants, along with those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and excess belly fat, reduced body weight from 1.5 to 13.6%. This is comparable to the effect of Medifast, a popular and medically approved weight loss program.\ Improved Blood Cholesterol Levels\ 14 studies demonstrated the positive impact of yoga on blood lipid levels. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels were reduced with both short and long term Raja yoga when compared to similar men who didn't partake in yoga. Good cholesterol (HDL) was increased, and bad cholesterol (LDL) was reduced in both men in good health and those suffering from high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. Specifically, total cholesterol was decreased by 5.8 to 25.2%, bad cholesterol by 12.8 to 26% and triglycerides by 22 to 28.5% .\ Reduced High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)\ The effect of yoga on blood pressure was the most extensively researched. 37 studies had been performed, and more than 75% of the results showed an improvement on blood pressure when participating in yoga. These reductions in blood pressure were evident in both healthy adults and those suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease.\ Improved Insulin Resistance\ Researchers found 51 studies investigating the effects of yoga on one or more of the components of Insulin Resistance Syndrome.\ What is insulin resistance?* Insulin normally enables cells to take up and utilize the blood glucose from the blood stream. Insulin resistance is a condition in which blood cells stop taking up glucose from the blood, which ideally is used for energy and metabolism.\ Insulin resistance, a major contributing factor in heart disease, was significantly improved in all the studies, which ranged from 40 days to 1 year. Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure responded significantly for the better. Adults in both good health and with coronary artery disease, all showed improved fasting glucose blood and glycohemoglobin tests.\ Specifically, yoga was shown to reduce fasting glucose in the range of 5.4 to 33.4%, reduce glycohemoglobin by 13.3 to 27.3%, and blood glucose after meals by 24.5 to 27%.\ What is *glycohemoglobin*? This is a form of hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells) that is formed in the blood of individuals with high blood glucose (sugar) levels and is commonly seen in diabetics.\ Effects of Yoga on Oxidative Stress\ Your body constantly reacts with oxygen as you breathe and your cells produce energy. As a consequence of this activity, highly reactive molecules are produced known as free radicals. Free radicals interact with other molecules within cells. This can cause oxidative damage to proteins, membranes and genes.\ Yoga reduces oxidative stress by increasing the antioxidants Vitamins C, E, and glutathione that fight free radicals therefore has a beneficial effect on health.\ Seven studies have researched the effects of yoga on oxidative stress. Reductions in free radicals and increases in both antioxidants and antioxidative enzymes were observed. These changes were noted in both healthy adults and those with chronic IRS related syndromes.\ Effects of Yoga On Cardio-Respiratory Function and the Vagus Nerve\ 67 studies showed that yoga can impact significantly both cardiovascular reaction to and recovery from stress. Reductions in both heart and respiration rates lowered cortisol concentrations, renin activity, catecholamine levels, and skin conductance.\ What do all these terms mean? Read on for the rundown.\ *Skin conductance* is a measure of the stress response. A low skin conductance means low stress levels.\ *Renin* is an enzyme that controls blood pressure. Lower renin levels means lower blood pressure.\ *Cortisol* is often known as the "stress hormone" as it is involved in response to stress and anxiety. Higher levels of cortisol will raise blood pressure and blood sugars and decrease immune responses.\ *Catecholamines* are the sympathomimetic "fight or flight" hormones that are released by the adrenal glands in response to stress.\ The Effect of Yoga on Psychosocial Risk Factors for CVD.\ Studies have reported that yoga is also an effective tool for reducing depression and anxiety, reducing anger, fatigue, and tension, and decreasing stress levels. Yoga has also been reported as improving the quality of sleep for adults. It alleviates the effects of stress, and promotes feelings of well-being. This has a positive effect on both inflammatory responses, and nueroendocrine status.\ Yoga also stimulates the vagus nerve, which improves mood and energy state, along with positive metabolic, inflammatory and neuroendocrine responses.\ *The Vagus* nerve innervates the lungs and heart. When stimulated by yoga the Vagus nerve will lower both the heart rate and blood pressure.\ Conclusion.\ 70 published studies spanning 34 years have demonstrated that there is a very clear link between yoga and both physical and mental well being, in both healthy and unhealthy adults. Physical improvements include reduction in blood pressure, betterment of insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance, healthier blood cholesterol levels, and better body fat distribution. In addition, improved moods along with decreased stress and better quality sleep have also been proven to be asssociated with yoga. Heart disease, and its' precursors, such as Insulin Resistance Syndrome, can be minimized dramatically with the implementation of yoga into the lifestyle.\ Yoga is a cost effective and non-invasive activity that has had no reported ill effects. It can improve the risk factors for those individuals who are at risk, unwell, or still in good health.\ About the Author.\ Dr. Matthew Papaconstantinou is a research fellow at Washington University School of Medicine where he is currently researching obesity and cardiovascular disease. Matthew owns Weightlosstriumph.com where he publishes current research findings related to weight loss. He regularly posts a coupon code discount for Medifast diet, a medically approved program, and Nutrisystem coupons and discounts.
Research Proving Yoga Works
September 8, 2009
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