Good news for people who prefer sun salutations to the Stairmaster: Practicing yoga may provide protection against heart disease, comparable to the benefits of cardio, according to a new review published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Researchers analyzed 2,768 subjects divided into 37 randomized controlled trials in order to measure the benefits of yoga compared to other forms of aerobic exercise (like brisk walking or biking) and no exercise at all.
There were two important findings. First, cardiovascular risk factors improved in people who practiced yoga, compared with those who didn't exercise at all. Second, yoga's positive effect on risk factors was comparable to other forms of exercise.
Makes sense when you consider that yoga reduces stress and stress increases your risk of heart disease. "Stress reduction, relaxation, or meditation may play a part in achieving these benefits," explains Paula Chu, the doctoral candidate at Harvard University who led the study.
While there's no formula to determine how many downward dogs are equivalent to a 5K, one thing's for sure: Practicing yoga trumps being a couch potato, every time. Namaste!