Adding yoga to cardiovascular exercise helps reduce risk of heart disease

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A recent study found that adding yoga to a regular exercise regimen improved systolic blood pressure, resting heart rate, and 10-year cardiovascular risk.

The study was published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology and led by Paul Poirier, MD, PhD, of Laval University in Quebec, Canada. Poirier and his team of researchers set out to discover whether adding yoga to aerobic exercise would reduce cardiovascular risk more than stretching.

“We sought to apply a rigorous scientific approach to identify cardiovascular risk factors for which yoga is beneficial for at-risk patients and ways it could be applied in a healthcare setting such as a primary prevention program,” said Poirier in a statement.

Investigators recruited 60 individuals with diagnosed high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome and divided them into two groups. Over the course of three months, participants added 15 minutes of either stretching or yoga to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.

After the three-month trial, researchers found both groups had a decrease in resting systolic, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate. However, results showed those who practiced yoga reduced their systolic blood pressure by 10 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), whereas those who stretched had a reduction of only four mmHg.

According to the study’s authors, these findings indicate that structured yoga practices may be more effective in reducing cardiovascular risk than stretching alone.

"This study provides evidence for an additional non-pharmacologic therapy option for cardiovascular risk reduction and blood pressure control in patients with high blood pressure, in the setting of a primary prevention exercise program," said Poirier.