How a gentle form of exercise can reduce your risk for chronic diseases

March 30, 2010
Volume 07    |   Issue 14

We all know that exercise is good for us. A recent study conducted at Ohio State University identified one reason why. Exercise produces anti-inflammatory substances. But it’s not just the more strenuous types of exercise like cardio classes or walking on the treadmill that provide this benefit. Some forms of exercise that you might think of as being too mild to do much good produce these same substances. And can protect you from many chronic illnesses.

I’ve explained many times in past articles that inflammation is at the core of many chronic illnesses. These include heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, and arthritis. And exercise affects inflammation. Even slow forms of exercise like yoga.

This study found that women who practiced yoga regularly had lower amounts of IL-6 in their blood than novices. IL-6 is a pro-inflammatory substance. The more you have, the more inflammation you have.

But that’s not all. When the women in the study came under stress, those who practiced yoga regularly produced less IL-6. They also had less overall inflammation.

For this study, the yoga novices practiced yoga for only 6 to 12 sessions during the previous year. The other women had practiced yoga one to two times a week for two years or more. And they had practiced yoga at least twice a week for the last year. The researchers then put all the participants through stressful situations. They followed the stressful situations with one of several calming exercises, including relaxing or restorative yoga poses.

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The researchers took blood samples periodically. They were looking for signs of inflammation. The women who had practiced yoga regularly had lower levels of inflammation than the novices. And their stress response was lower.

Both long-term and short-term health benefits occur when you reduce inflammation anywhere in your body. To prevent or treat any chronic illness, consider taking a yoga class once or twice a week. In addition to becoming more flexible, you’ll support your immune system. Exercises — including yoga — should be part of everyone’s health regime.

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