Reduced calorie diet and physical activity are common ways to help with weight management, but many might not be aware that yoga can also help. Researchers at the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic came to this conclusion after extensively reviewing the studies on the health impacts of yoga.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight and over one-third are obese. Overweight is defined as having a body weight above what is considered normal or healthy and obesity is defined as a more serious degree of overweight. Obesity contributes to many serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
Yoga is a mind-body workout that focuses on flexibility, strength, balance and relaxation. There are many different types of yoga, and some are more intense than others. The researchers found that, on average, an hour of yoga burned about the same number of calories as an hour of walking. In addition, yoga was associated with reduced back and joint pain, making it easier for many to be more physically active throughout the day.
Yoga also had many positive behavioral effects. A key component of yoga is mindfulness—the attention to the present and a state of being consciously aware of thoughts, feelings, body sensations and the external environment. According to the researchers, mindfulness may help with weight management by reducing stress and improving mood, which may reduce emotional eating (eating in response to negative emotions). Moreover, the researchers found evidence that mindfulness developed and practiced during yoga continued into everyday life. Mindfulness helped individuals feel more aware and connected to their bodies, which may reduce eating in response to cues such as smell and sight rather than hunger. Mindfulness also led to more self-control and higher self-confidence. Finally, the yoga culture instilled commitment, discipline and a sense of community and support—all components that contribute to a successful weight management plan.
For information about yoga, visit the Yoga Alliance website.
Kim Henige, EdD, CSCS, ACSM EP-C, is an associate professor and undergraduate program coordinator in the department of kinesiology at California State University, Northridge.