Benefits of Yoga Can Include Sustained Weight Loss, Study Finds

Yoga has many benefits, ranging from increased strength and flexibility to reduced inflammation and stress, but new research finds that the advantages of yoga may be even more significant than once presumed.

A recent study published in PLOS ONE, a journal dedicated to a multidisciplinary approach to scientific advancement, showed that regular yoga practice enabled participants to better sustain prior weight loss over a longer period. 

The study followed 60 women who were overweight or obese. The participants first took part in a three-month weight-loss program that included calorie reduction, regular aerobic exercise, and weekly group sessions with a nutritionist. For the next three months, the women were randomly assigned to either take bi-weekly nutrition/cooking or yoga classes for the remaining 12 weeks of the study. The results showed that the women who participated in the yoga classes lost 3.5% more weight over the next 12 weeks than the women taking the cooking classes.

The study’s lead author, Jessica Unick, an exercise physiologist at The Miriam Hospital’s Weight Control and Diabetes Research Center in Providence, Rhode Island, couldn’t identify a scientific answer as to why the women doing yoga lost more weight, but she hypothesized that it was the psychological effects of yoga the mindfulness, the stress relief, the self-compassion that heightened the ability of the study participants to tolerate uncomfortable feelings and sensations, which can be a major obstacle to healthy weight management.

The many variations of yoga make it a useful form of physical activity for people of all ages, body types, and ability levels. Starting with low intensity yoga is an excellent way for beginners to learn and realize the health and psychological benefits while minimizing the risk of injury and feelings of discouragement. Yoga applies many of the core principles included in the Healthy Monday portfolio, like deep breathing, visualizations, mindfulness, and conscious movements and exercise. Looking to get started? For people hoping to manage a healthy weight, our Mind-Body Connection Package offers  different forms of physical activity and exercise to relieve stress while staying active.