Yoga and aerobic exercise are a powerful combination for protecting the heart. [Photo: Bigstock]

Stretch or sweat – which is better for the heart?

23 October, 2017

Natural Health News — Which is better for keeping your heart healthy – yoga or aerobic exercise? The answer, according to a new study, is both.

Lifestyle interventions such as exercise have been shown to aid in reducing the risk of death and the debilitating symptoms of chronic heart disease.

Heart disease patients who practice yoga in addition to aerobic exercise saw twice the reduction in blood pressure, body mass index and cholesterol levels compared to patients who practiced either Indian yoga or aerobic exercise alone, according to research presented at a recent international meeting of cardiologists.

Researchers in this study looked specifically at Indian yoga and aerobic training’s effect on the coronary risk factors of obese heart disease patients with type 2 diabetes.

Better together

What you need to know

» Researchers sought to find out whether yoga or aerobic exercise is best for reducing the risk of death from heart disease

» What they discovered is that while each was effective on its own, a combination of the two was the most effective.

» In addition to regular exercise, which most of us know about, those at risk of heart disease would benefit from learning about yoga too.

The study looked at 750 patients who had previously been diagnosed with coronary heart disease. One group of 225 patients participated in aerobic exercise, another group of 240 patients participated in Indian yoga, and a third group of 285 participated in both yoga and aerobic exercise. Each group did three, six-month sessions of yoga and/or aerobic exercise.

The aerobic exercise only and yoga only groups showed similar reductions in blood pressure, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL, weight and waist circumference. However, the combined yoga and aerobic exercise group showed a two times greater reduction compared to the other groups. They also showed significant improvement in left ventricular ejection fraction, diastolic function and exercise capacity.

A little bit of everything

“Combined Indian yoga and aerobic exercise reduce mental, physical and vascular stress and can lead to decreased cardiovascular mortality and morbidity,” said Sonal Tanwar, PhD, a scholar in preventative cardiology, and Naresh Sen, DM, PhD, a consultant cardiologist, both at HG SMS Hospital, Jaipur, India.

He notes that Indian yoga is a combination of whole exercise of body, mind and soul, and a common practice throughout India and adds: “Heart disease patients could benefit from learning Indian yoga and making it a routine part of daily life.”

As it is with food, it seems that when it comes to exercise a little bit of everything is the healthiest approach.