Yoga and metabolic syndrome
People in various yoga asanas. Original title and description: "AsanAthon 2" Participants in Diamond Mountain's first AsanAthon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Like many of you who are reading this blog, I enjoy practicing yoga or chi gong as a part of my daily exercise programme. These contemplative movement arts are meditative and centering, so I appreciate doing them. Imagine my consternation when Dr Weber explained that yoga and chi gong are not aerobic and so won't meet my exercise needs, even though they are good to do. Or to put it another way apparently I still need an hour of exercise a day aside from yoga or chi gong. Her's a quote from the study I imagine Dr Weber was referring to "Sixty minutes or more of continuous or intermittent aerobic activity, preferably done every day will promote weight loss and weight maintenance. The latter include multiple short (10-15 minute) bouts of activity (walking breaks at work, gardening or household work), jogging, swimming, biking, golfing, or team sports. An equal balance between aerobic exercise and strength training is advised."
It's taken me a while to digest and process this. And here are a few things I've realized along the way.
First of all, yoga and chi gong provide deep relaxation and release of tension even in the midst of exercising. It's not only shivasana (corpse pose) that offer a deepening into the parasympathetic state, but also many asanas, as we discussed a few days ago when talking about rabbit pose. And not just asanas, but pranayama also offers significant stress reduction benefits. Stress is a key element in metabolic syndrome, particularly where hypertension and belly fat are concerned.
Another point that has become clear to me recently is that musculoskeletal degenerative conditions are associated not just with age and wear and tear but also with impaired microvascular blood flow (I wrote about this in my last blog, on shoulder injuries). And impaired flow in small blood vessels is related to diabetes, pre-diabetes and insulin resistance. In other words, those of us with insulin resistance are at increased risk of musculoskeletal degenerative disorders. Degeneration of joints such as the knees can make it difficult to walk upstairs, what to speak of doing aerobic exercise. So here comes a vicious cycle--lack of exercise/metabolic syndrome/knee degeneration/lack of exercise/worse metabolic syndrome. And this is compounded by obesity giving the knees more to carry and lack of exercise increasing obesity. Yoga offers an excellent path to move and energize all the joints, providing increased blood flow and maintaining flexibility. And today, with yin yoga, restorative yoga, chair yoga, bed yoga--all mobility levels can do some asanas and pranayama.
After mentally designing a study to prove that I really do need to do yoga and chi gong, I found that a lot of researchers have beaten me to it! A 2008 pilot trial at the University of California determined that, "Restorative yoga was a feasible and acceptable intervention in overweight adults with metabolic syndrome. The efficacy of yoga for improving metabolic parameters in this population should be explored in a larger randomized controlled trial." (2) In 2005 a literature review article published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine noted that "collectively, these studies suggest that yoga may reduce many IRS-related risk factors for CVD, may improve clinical outcomes, and may aid in the management of CVD and other IRS-related conditions." (Note: IRS = insulin resistance syndrome) (3).A 2008 study from India notes that "Participation of subjects with T2DM (Type 2 diabetes) in yoga practice for 40 days resulted in reduced BMI, improved well-being, and reduced anxiety." (4). And the study cited above in reference to aerobic exercise goes on to say, in the next paragraph, "Thus, it is clear that a comprehensive approach consisting of weight reduction, regular physical exercise and yoga is crucial in control of the insulin resistance state that characterizes the metabolic syndrome."
I'm sure that was what Dr. Weber, who is a holistic physician, meant to convey. Sometimes we hear what we hear, and go through our own process. And the studies I've cited are only referring to the benefits of yoga on markers of metabolic syndrome and not even to the added musculoskeletal piece I mentioned.
So, walk more but don't substitute walking for yoga!
1. PC Deedwania, R Gupta, Management Issues in the Metabolic Syndrome JAPI 2006
2..Beth E. Cohen, A. Ann Chang, Deborah Grady, and Alka M. Kanaya. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. September 2008, 6(3): 223-229. doi:10.1089/met.2008.0016.
3. Kim E. Innes, Cheryl Bourguignon, and Ann Gill Taylor, Risk Indices Associated with the Insulin Resistance Syndrome, Cardiovascular Disease, and Possible Protection with Yoga: A Systematic Review J Am Board Fam Pract November-December 2005 18:491-519; doi:10.3122/jabfm.18.6.491
4. Madhu Kosuri Ph.D.Gumpeny R. Sridhar M.D., D.D., F.A.C.E.. Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders. December 2009, 7(6): 515-518. doi:10.1089/met.2009.0011.