Most people don't count yoga as cardio. But there's good news for people who'd rather stretch than sprint: A new review of existing research suggests that yoga could protect your body from cardiovascular disease and metabolic risk factors (i.e., high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and abnormal cholesterol levels) just as much as aerobic activities like running.
Until now, it's been pretty hard to compare yoga to any kind of intense aerobic sport. While you can technically break a sweat, build strength and endurance, and completely exhaust yourself by doing either activity, they're still pretty different.
In this new review though, researchers combed through a total of 69 legit medical studies on Hatha yoga (a common kind of yoga designed to sync your breath to movements that stretch and stimulate your spine and muscles) to figure out whether yoga benefits the body remotely as much as more vigorous activities. They also compared studies that tracked disease risk factors among people who practiced yoga, did traditional aerobic activity, and didn't move much at all.
The results: Just like any activity you do on a cardio machine, field, court, or track, yoga can reduce body fat, lower blood pressure, normalize blood cholesterol, and improve heart rate for an overall lower risk of heart disease and related risk factors.
While authors can't entirely explain yoga's superpowers, one of their theories is that practicing it mitigates stress, which can take a very real toll on your mind, body, and health. And just like other kinds of cardio activity, yoga could produce some physiological aerobic benefits too.
Just goes to show: The best kind of workout is the one you don't hate. If you do it, it will work.
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