Last week, we reported on new research showing that just 15 minutes of exercise a day can increase life span by years. Now a small study published in the journal Diabetes Care has uncovered even more health benefits of physical activity, or more specifically, the benefits of gentle yoga on Type 2 diabetes. An estimated 26 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Type 2.
Yoga, a discipline that traces its roots to ancient India, focuses on improving physical and mental health through the practice of certain postures, breathing exercises, and sometimes meditation and chanting. To determine the effects of yoga on various health markers such as blood pressure and blood glucose control, researchers looked at 123 middle-aged and older adults with varying levels of diabetic nerve and blood vessel complications. The participants were assigned to receive either standard diabetes care alone or standard diabetes care along with yoga for three months. The yoga was gentle, and some poses were avoided in people with certain medical conditions such as heart disease.
Among the 60 people who took yoga classes several times a week, average body-mass index declined from 25.9 to 25.4. (Body-mass index, or BMI, is a measure of a person’s weight in relation to his height.) Additionally, chemicals associated with oxidative stress, or an imbalance in the number of damaging free radicals in the body, decreased by an average of 20% in the group practicing yoga. Whether this decrease might lower the risk of diabetes complications such as nerve damage and heart and kidney disease requires further exploration in future studies, the researchers note. Lastly, the blood glucose levels of the people in the yoga group held steady, while the levels of those in the control group rose. The researchers did not find a difference in factors such as waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, or blood pressure between the two groups.
According to lead author Shreelaxmi V. Hegde of the Srinivas Institute of Medical Science and Research Center in Mangalore, India, “It should be noted that yoga controlled the blood sugar levels [that] otherwise rose in the control group.” However, she also points out that more vigorous exercise than the form of yoga used in the study would be more effective for weight loss and blood sugar control; the findings do not suggest that yoga should replace other types of exercise.
And if you are looking for more information about integrating yoga into your diabetes management plan, check out the articles “Get Moving With Yoga” and “Yoga: Uniting Mind, Body, and Spirit” on our Web site. (If you decide you would like to try yoga, be sure to look for classes that are designed for older people or for those with chronic medical conditions. According to this article, hospitals and community centers may be a good place to start.)