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Yoga is as effective as biking or brisk walking in keeping the heart healthy, says a new study. Researchers from the US and the Netherlands, who based their findings on 37 trials involving 2,768 people, have also highlighted other benefits.  

"This finding is significant as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in cardiovascular risk reduction," Professor Myriam Hunink from Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam and colleagues, wrote, according to a news release from the European Society of Cardiology.

Yoga, an ancient practice that originated in India about 5000 years ago, involves uniting the body, mind and spirit through meditation, breathing exercises and specific body postures.

Countless studies in the past have linked yoga to improved cardiovascular risk factors and have highlighted its power to protect against heart attacks and strokes.

In the new study, the researchers compared yoga with exercise and found that risk factors for cardiovascular diseases improved similarly with both yoga and exercise.

Compared to people who were not doing any exercise, the yoga group achieved considerable reduction in body mass index (BMI), blood pressure and cholesterol. Body weight decreased by 2.32 kg, while heart rates came down by 27 beats per minute.

The benefits were more prominent among patients with coronary heart disease, who combined yoga with statins and lipid-lowering drugs.

Yoga provided equal benefits as aerobic exercise, which researchers assumed is possibly due to the stress-reducing ability of yoga.

"These results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and in my view worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice," said senior author Professor Hunink. 

Findings of the study have been reported in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

The UN General Assembly declared June 21 as International Yoga Day a few days ago.

How Yoga can keep You Healthy: Some Health Benefits

More than 30 million people in the world practice yoga regularly. Research shows that 13 million people do yoga for health. Countless studies have highlighted the power of yoga. Following are some health benefits of yoga as proved by research and also provided by experts from The Art of Living:

  • Protects against depression in pregnancy
  • Helps smokers quit
  • Improves cognitive function in old age
  • Helps lower blood pressure
  • Treats diabetes and heart disease
  • Helps manage social anxiety disorders
  • Helps improve quality of life in breast cancer patients
  • Treats migraine
  • Helps in weight loss
  • Overall fitness
  • Relieves stress
  • Boosts immunity
  • Improves intuitive ability
  • Strengthens relationships
  • Helps remain fresh and improves energy