Recent research from the Journal of Physical Activity and Health has found that practising yoga on a regular basis may help with weight gain prevention.
Obesity in young adults is of public health concern. Around 25% of the British population are obese and over 70% are classed as overweight, in terms of body mass index (BMI), of course, we know that BMI isn’t always the best way to judge if a person is overweight. We reported on this in our recent post Decreasing body fat – The how to guide, however, the statistics are still worrying.
Given obesity’s high prevalence and potential adverse health consequences, innovative strategies are needed that are effective in long-term weight management. The health benefits of yoga are widely published, we even did a post on it earlier this year, titled Six reasons why athletes should do yoga. However, this new research shows that yoga may provide a strategy for healthy weight management in young adults.
Just short of 2,000 young adults aged between 29 and 32 participated. Cross-sectional and 5-year longitudinal analyses were conducted stratified by initial weight status.
Two-thirds (66.5%) of non-overweight women and 48.9% of overweight women reported ever doing yoga. 27.2% of non-overweight women and 16.4% of overweight women practised regularly (over 30 minutes a week). Fewer men practised yoga. Among young adults practising regularly, differences were identified in intensity, type and location of yoga practice across weight status. Young adults who were overweight and practised yoga regularly showed a non-significant 5-year decrease in their BMI, whereas those not practising regularly had significant increases in their BMI. The frequency of yoga was inversely associated with weight gain among both overweight and non-overweight young adults practising yoga regularly.
Findings suggest that regular yoga practice is associated with less weight gain over time. This study also shows that yoga is very popular, regardless of weight status, particularly among young adult women.
The prevalence of yoga was lower among young adult men, particularly those who are overweight. This suggests potential challenges in making yoga an acceptable practice for young adult men. The findings that young adults from different ethnic/racial backgrounds reported practising yoga suggests yoga’s potential suitability for a wide sector of the young adult population. That said, young adults with higher levels of educational attainment, who may be at lowest risk for obesity, were most likely to practice yoga.
Why is yoga getting so popular?
Stress reduction and fitness enhancement were cited as main reasons for practising yoga, regardless of weight status. However, overweight yoga practitioners were more likely to indicate weight control as the main reason for practising. Overweight individuals were less likely to practice in yoga studios, suggesting they’d rather practice alone. This provides an inexpensive and convenient way to engage in yoga. Although, if done without a teacher present, there may be concerns regarding proper alignment that may not be adequately addressed. We’d suggest Yoga Anatomy if you are just starting out and you’d like a great visual resource but we have a huge variety of excellent yoga books on our website. Take a look and see which suits you.
Yoga can help with weight gain prevention
Although gentle classes may not directly result in large energy expenditure, there may be indirect benefits such as changes in eating patterns as a result of greater body awareness, stress management and self-care, which could lead to lower energy intake. Furthermore, participating in gentle yoga may be a gateway to more active practices.
Previous studies, by Kristal et al found that regular yoga practice was associated with lower 10-year weight gains in adults over the age of 45, particularly among adults who were overweight. Together, findings from these 2 population-based studies suggest yoga may be helpful in preventing further weight gain among overweight adults.
To conclude young adults of different body sizes practice yoga. Doing yoga was associated with less weight gain over time, particularly in overweight young adults. Practicing yoga on a regular basis may help with weight gain prevention. As the popularity of yoga continues to grow as a cheap and accessible sport, these findings are particularly encouraging.
The authors of this study concluded with; findings are promising and provide insights for next steps with regard to making yoga more acceptable to populations who could potentially benefit from the practice but have low participation e.g. overweight men. They advised conducting research to further explore the impact of yoga on different dimensions of weight-related health including weight status, eating behaviours, physical activity and body image concerns.
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