Increased Hatha Yoga Experience Predicts Lower Body Mass Index and Reduced Medication Use in Women over 45 Years

Article excerpt

Byline: N. Moliver, E. Mika, M. Chartrand, SWM. Burrus, R. Haussmann, SBS. Khalsa

Background: Yoga has been shown to have many short-term health benefits, but little is known about the extent to which these benefits accrue over a long time frame or with frequent practice. Aims: The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which body mass index (BMI) and medication use in a sample of female yoga practitioners over 45 years varied according to the length and frequency of yoga practice. Materials and Methods: We administered online surveys to 211 female yoga practitioners aged 45 to 80 years. We used regression analyses to evaluate the relationship of extent of yoga experience to both BMI and medication use after accounting for age and lifestyle factors. We also conducted comparisons with 182 matched controls. Results: Participants had practiced yoga for as long as 50 years and for up to 28 hours per week. There were significant inverse relationships between yoga experience and both BMI and medication load. These significant relationships remained after accounting for age and lifestyle factors. When we computed yoga experience in terms of total calendar years, without accounting for hours of practice, significant relationships did not remain. However, there was no obesity in the 49 participants with more than 25 years of yoga practice. Yoga practitioners were less likely than non-practitioners to use medication for metabolic syndrome, mood disorders, inflammation, and pain. Conclusions: A long-term yoga practice was associated with little or no obesity in a non-probability sample of women over 45 years. Relationships showed a dose-response effect, with increased yoga experience predicting lower BMI and reduced medication use.

Introduction

Two related markers of physical well-being in adults are body mass index (BMI) and medication use. [sup][1] Overweight (BMI 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m [sup]2 ) and obesity (BMI ≥30.0 kg/m [sup]2 ) are associated with increased all-cause mortality. [sup][2] Older women are particularly vulnerable to overweight and obesity. A study [sup][3] of 647 White American women aged 57 to 74 years showed that 70% of the sample was overweight or obese.

Because people use medications to address health problems, medication load can be understood as one indicator of overall illness burden [sup][1] and as an inverse predictor of quality of life. [sup][4] Many medications are associated with negative health outcomes, and the use of multiple medications is a known risk factor for increased morbidity and mortality in the elderly. [sup][5] Women over 65 years are the highest users of medication, with 23% of women over 65 years taking at least five medications in the preceding week. [sup][6]

Yoga has been shown to be useful for addressing a wide range of health conditions. [sup][7],[8] Yoga is a mind-body practice integrating ethical principles, daily behaviors, physical postures, breathing techniques, self-awareness, deep relaxation techniques, and meditation into a system for personal growth, well-being, and self-realization. [sup][9] Approximately 6.1% of the American population was found to have engaged in some form of yoga practice for health purposes in 2007, up from 5.1% in 2002. [sup][10],[11] Hatha yoga is a form of yoga with emphasis on physical postures.

Several studies of yoga among the middle-aged and the elderly have shown positive results. [sup][12],[13],[14],[15],[16] A 6-month Iyengar yoga practice in elderly people led to improvements in fatigue and in overall physical wellness. [sup][17] Participants also improved in measures of balance, flexibility, physical strength, pain, and social functioning. [sup][17]

Most studies of the effects of Hatha yoga experience have involved short-term interventions with beginners, lasting between a few days and a few months. Little is known about whether the benefits of yoga continue to accrue over a long time frame. …