If you are unable to hit the gym or go on a morning walk, begin yoga at home to cut your cardiovascular disease risk.
There is promising evidence that yoga is beneficial in managing and improving the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and is a potentially effective therapy for cardiovascular health.
Following a systematic review of 37 randomised controlled trials (which included 2,768 subjects), investigators from the Netherlands and the US have found that yoga may provide the same benefits in risk factor reduction as such traditional physical activities as biking or brisk walking.
"This finding is significant as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in (cardiovascular) risk reduction," the team said.
In comparisons with exercise itself, yoga was found to have comparable effects on risk factors as aerobic exercise.
The investigators note that this might be because of yoga's impact on stress reduction, leading to positive impacts on neuroendocrine status, metabolic and cardio-vagal function.
When compared to no exercise, yoga was associated with significant improvement in primary outcome risk factors like body mass index, systolic blood pressure, low-density (bad) cholesterol and high-density (good) cholesterol.
There were also significant changes seen in secondary endpoints like body weight, diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol and heart rate.
However, no improvements were found in parameters of diabetes.
"These results indicate that yoga is potentially very useful and, in my view, worth pursuing as a risk improvement practice," said senior author professor Myriam Hunink from Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.
The similarity of yoga and exercise's effect on cardiovascular risk factors, say the investigators, suggest that there could be comparable working mechanisms, with some possible physiological aerobic benefits occurring with yoga practice, and some stress-reducing, relaxation effect occurring with aerobic exercise.
The evidence also supports yoga's acceptability to patients with lower physical tolerance like those with pre-existing cardiac conditions, the elderly, or those with musculoskeletal or joint pain.
The study was published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.