A three-month pilot study in patients with onset hypertension Canadian Journal of Cardiology demonstrates that adding yoga to a regular exercise routine promotes cardiovascular health and well-being and is more effective than stretching exercises. The incorporation of yoga reduced systolic blood pressure and resting heart rate and improved cardiovascular risk over 10 years.
Yoga is part of the spiritual and physical practices of millions of people around the world. With the practice of yoga becoming a widely accepted form of exercise, the body of yoga research is growing. It is a multi-faceted lifestyle activity that can positively improve cardiovascular health and well-being. Physical exercises such as stretching exercises and the physical components of yoga practices have several similarities, but also important differences.
“The purpose of this pilot study was to determine whether adding yoga to a regular exercise program reduces cardiovascular risk,” explained lead researcher Paul Poirier, MD, Ph.D., Heart and Lung Institute of Quebec from Laval University, and the Faculty of Pharmacy, Laval University, Quebec, Canada.
“While there is evidence that yoga interventions and exercise have equal and/or superior cardiovascular outcomes, there is considerable variability in yoga types, components, frequency, duration, duration and the intensity of the sessions.We sought to apply a rigorous scientific approach to identify cardiovascular risk factors for which yoga is beneficial for patients at risk and the ways in which it could be applied in a health care setting such as a primary prevention program.
Investigators recruited 60 people with previously diagnosed high blood pressure and metabolic syndrome for a physical training program. During the 3-month intervention regimen, participants were split into 2 groups, which performed 15 minutes of structured yoga or stretching in addition to 30 minutes of aerobic training 5 times per week.
Blood pressure, anthropometry, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), glucose and lipid levels as well as Framingham and Reynolds risk scores were measured. At baseline, there was no difference between the groups in terms of age, gender, smoking rate, body mass index (BMI), systolic and diastolic blood pressure at rest, heart rate at rest and differential pressure.
After 3 months, there was a decrease in resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure, mean arterial pressure and heart rate in both groups. However, systolic blood pressure was reduced by 10 mmHg with yoga versus 4 mmHg with stretching. The yoga approach also reduced resting heart rate and 10-year cardiovascular risk assessed using the Reynolds risk score.
Although yoga has been shown to benefit hypertensive patients, the exact mechanism underlying this positive effect is not fully understood. This randomized pilot study shows that its benefits cannot simply be attributed to stretching alone.
“This study provides evidence for an additional non-pharmacological treatment option for cardiovascular risk reduction and blood pressure control in patients with arterial hypertension, as part of a primary prevention exercise program” , noted Dr. Poirier.
“As observed in several studies, we recommend that patients try to find exercise and stress relief for the management of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in whatever form they find most appealing. Our study shows that structured yoga practices can be a healthier complement to aerobic exercise than just muscle stretching.”
Impact of yoga on overall cardiovascular risk as an adjunct to a regular exercise regimen in patients with hypertension, Canadian Journal of Cardiology (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.cjca.2022.09.019
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