Benefits of Yoga for Patients with Obesity
— By Dawn M. Sweet, Ph.D
Results are promising for patients with obesity when yoga and nutrition advice are combined with a diet plan.
Among patients with obesity, 65-78 percent are estimated to have hypertension.1 Hypertension increases a patient’s chances of developing heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes, each of which can have catastrophic outcomes. In patients with obesity, cholesterol and triglycerides are also elevated, thus creating additional health concerns. Managing comorbities in patients with obesity can present challenges for doctors and health care teams, so it is critical to provide patients with a range of options and approaches to weight management. Yoga represents a promising option for patients with obesity.
Yoga and Medical Weight Management
There is empirical evidence to suggest that health care professionals should considering talking with their patients about pursing yoga as part of their weight loss journey. Many communities offer ‘yoga in the park’ (in many places these classes are free to community members) during spring and summer, so pursuing yoga as a form of physical activity for patients with obesity may be a good first step toward becoming more active, reducing hypertension, reducing cholesterol, reducing stress, and improving quality of life.
A medically-supervised weight management program provides a framework for not only managing weight loss for patients with obesity and but also for helping patients to understand the benefits of Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) or Low Calorie Diet (LCD). Behavioral changes, in the context of a VLCD/LCD when coupled with physical activity can lead to improved weight loss and weight management for patients with obesity, particularly when working with medical supervision. Consideration of pairing yoga and supervised weight management is warranted for patients with obesity.
Yoga and Decreases in Anthromorphic Measures
A 2018 study2 investigating a 12-week yoga practice found that anthromorphic measures such as waist circumference, sagittal abdominal diameter, hip circumference, waist-hip ratio, for example, were significantly reduced. Age did not moderate the decrease in anthromorphic measures, though women between 30-45 did show the greatest decreases. Participants completed the Moorehead-Ardelt Quality of Life Questionnaire, and results show that patients with obesity scored higher in quality of life after practicing yoga. This is important because it suggests the link between quality of life and well-being in successfully managing weight.3
Yoga: Implications for Hypertension
The deleterious effects of hypertension on health are well documented. The increase of reported cases of hypertension has increased and is typically attributed to age and behavioral risk factors such as an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and an unhealthy weight4, to name only a few factors. A 20155 study investigated the effect of a three-month Asana yoga practice on males between 35-55 with hypertension. Participants experienced a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure and BMI. Additionally, total cholesterol and triglycerides were reduced while HDL was increased.
The bottom line? Pairing yoga and supervised weight management is an effective, noninvasive, non-pharmacological obesity treatment for patients with cardiovascular risks.
- Obesity-related hypertension: a review of pathophysiology, management, and the role of metabolic surgery
- Twelve weeks of yoga or nutritional advice for centrally obese adult females
- A different weight loss experience: a qualitative study exploring the behavioral, physical, and psychosocial changes associated with yoga that promote weight loss
- Content, structure, and delivery characteristics of yoga interventions for managing hypertension: A systematic review protocol
- Effect of yoga on obesity, hypertension and lipid profile