Sunday, March 12, 2006

Weight Loss Through Yoga

As yoga becomes more mainstream, among claims made by its many adherents is that it helps with weight loss. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center set out to find out. 15,500 people between the ages of 53 and 57 were asked about their exercise, diet and weight histories. The results showed that those who practiced yoga lost ten pounds over a period of five years. Those that did not averaged a thirteen and a half pound gain during that same time period.

That's the good news. The bad news is that its not necessarily clear whether the results of the study show a cause and effect between practicing yoga and losing weight. One of the co-authors of the study, Alan Kristal, believes that the weight loss cannot be attributed to the caloric burn of yoga practice.

"Except for very strenuous yoga practices, you don't really burn enough energy to make any difference in terms of weight," said Kristal. Rather, Kristal believes that by putting people more in tune with their bodies, reducing stress, and avoiding bad habits yoga helps them avoid overeating.

Another possible explanation is that fit, healthy people are more likely to take up yoga than those who are out of shape. If the group practicing group was in better shape to begin with, then the results of the study are what you would expect. More studies will be required to prove a causal link between starting a yoga program and losing weight.

However, just because there no proven link between yoga and weight loss does not mean that yoga isn't beneficial. Just the stress reduction and increased flexibility associated with yoga can contribute to wellness. Not to mention the emotional satisfaction and enjoyment that comes from yoga. Yoga can certainly be a part of a sensible plan for health, but should not be relied on exclusively if weight loss is the goal. Healthy diet and a sensible aerobic exercise regime are still a necessary part of a balanced lifestyle.

(c) 2005

J. Morgan writes regularly on health, fitness and weight loss. He also maintains and edits the popular yoga news and information website "Yoga Daily" at

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