Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years to strengthen the body and prepare it for meditation. Yoga offers many styles of practice, ranging from gentle to vigorous workouts. Hatha yoga is a gentle, widely available style of yoga in which participants move slowly through yoga poses. Now modern research shows that hatha yoga is a great fitness activity.
The ACE Yoga Study
The study, sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) , examined the effect of hatha yoga practice in previously sedentary women. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, administered either a 55-minute hatha yoga class three days a week or no exercise participation at all to 34 healthy, previously sedentary women (average age of 33 years), for eight weeks. The participants’ fitness levels, including flexibility, strength, endurance, balance and pulmonary function, were assessed by a standard battery of tests, at the beginning and end of the study.
The researchers found that the yoga group had significantly improved flexibility, strength, endurance, and balance, compared to the non-yoga group. The yoga group showed a 13 to 35 percent improvement in flexibility. Chest and abdominal strength and endurance were significantly improved, enabling the yoga group to perform an average of six more push-ups and 14 more curl-ups at the end of the study than at the beginning. Balance scores were also improved, including a 17-second increase in the yoga group’s one-legged stand. However, there were no significant improvements in aerobic capacity. The researchers attribute this to the beginner’s yoga class lacking intensity in the aerobic training zone.
The Main Point:
“For the average person off-the-street who doesn’t have a fitness program, this study shows what would happen if you did eight weeks of hatha yoga,” says study researcher and certified yoga instructor, Dawn Boehde. All types of flexibility have been shown to be improved, including improved balance and increased strength and endurance. “We saw very nice changes in flexibility of the entire body, the shoulder girdle, twisting, bending, reaching, good low-back flexibility – all those types of flexibility improved,” says the study researcher, John Porcari, Ph.D. “And those improvements should have very good carryover to everyday life.” The researchers conclude that hatha yoga is a valuable addition to any cardiovascular workout.
Anders M. ACE Yoga Study: Does Yoga Really Do the Body Good?, ACE FitnessMatters.