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14 December 2007

Yoga alone not enough to be fit

Yoga has a multitude of proven health benefits, but it probably won't give you the workout you need to keep your cardiovascular system in shape, a new study shows.

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Yoga has a multitude of proven health benefits, but it probably won't give you the workout you need to keep your cardiovascular system in shape, a new study shows.

"Yoga's definitely going to be an intervention in which we have to look at the whole package to see how it conveys its benefits," said Dr Marshall Hagins of Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York, a researcher on the study.

Current physical activity guidelines recommend people get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week, and state that these 30 minutes can be broken into 10-minute sessions, Hagins and colleagues note in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

They sought to determine whether a traditional Hatha yoga session might help people meet these requirements, which are considered the minimum for improving and maintaining health and cardiovascular fitness.

How the research was done
Hagins and colleagues had 20 intermediate to advanced yoga practitioners work out in a special chamber that measured the amount of oxygen they consumed, while wearing heart rate monitors.

During the 56-minute yoga session, study participants burned an average of 3.2 calories a minute - about the same as they would taking a leisurely walk.

But during the sun salutation portion of the session - a series of linked exercises performed at a faster tempo - their exertion did meet standard criteria for moderate exercise.

The findings show that if people can make sure their yoga sessions include at least 10 minutes of sun salutation practice, they may help them maintain their cardiovascular health and fitness, Hagins said.

But, he added, people shouldn't expect to meet full physical activity recommendations through yoga alone.

More research is needed to discover just how yoga does confer its health benefits, which include reducing cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis, without making people break a sweat, he said. Breathing exercises, which can help balance the nervous system, are likely a key element, according to Hagins. – (Reuters Health)

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