Protect Your Heart With One of the Best Exercises in the World

Right now, we're all adjusting to a new normal.

For many of us, that means trying to find motivation to get up and get moving. The anxiety and 24/7 news cycle of doom and gloom can make anyone feel like getting off the couch is a futile effort.

But this crisis won't last forever...

So you have to take care of your body now. In fact, getting up and moving is critical to your survival. Think about all the ways simple movement can help fight coronavirus:

  • Boosts your immune system
  • Builds a healthy cardiovascular system
  • Elevates positive moods by releasing feel-good brain chemicals

It's the only body you've got, so you need to take care of it.

That's why today I want to revisit the easiest exercise in the world. Take a few minutes every day to try this practice and see how your core, your aching back, and your stress all improve...

The easiest exercise in the world is yoga.

People have practiced its many forms for centuries. Even though it's simple, it protects your heart just as well as aerobics.

Yoga grew out of a Hindu religious philosophy of uniting the mind and the body. But yoga as it's practiced today in the U.S. generally leaves out the religious overtones. More often, people use yoga to exercise as a way to control their breathing, strengthen their core, and stretch their muscles.

Over the past three decades, the research on the health benefits of yoga has piled up. Here are the big four...

1. Yoga reduces stress.

Stress takes a big toll on cells, especially on the protective caps on the ends of your DNA, called telomeres. These caps wear down each time your cells divide, so they disappear as you age. When the telomeres are gone, the cell stops dividing and dies. Stress makes telomeres shrink faster than normal, which leads to a host of age-related diseases.

Yoga protects your telomeres. In a recent study, researchers studied telomere length in a group of women with higher-than-normal stress levels: breast cancer survivors. Participants who practiced yoga maintained the length of their telomeres over an eight-week period... while those who only had a one-day seminar on stress had shorter telomeres.

2. Yoga protects your heart.

In a comprehensive review of random-controlled trials published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, researchers analyzed 37 clinical trials that focused on yoga. They found that participants who practiced yoga saw decreases in blood pressure and heart rate that was equal to the decreases seen from aerobic exercise. The scientists attributed the findings not only to the physical strength yoga builds, but also the stress-relieving practices it uses.

And another study done at the University of Kansas showed that yoga cuts your risk for atrial fibrillation. This condition is an irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots in the heart, and strokes.

3. Yoga helps arthritis.

Yoga relieves stress on your joints, providing relief from arthritis. In an Indian study from 2001, researchers tested grip strength – a common measure in arthritis studies – before and after yoga. Their participants included people with and without rheumatoid arthritis. After at least two weeks of practicing yoga, both groups saw improvements in grip scores.

And a study in the Journal of Rheumatology introduced yoga to people with either rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. People from both groups practiced yoga once a week for eight weeks. And both yoga groups saw improved flexibility, physical activity, and walking capacity.

Right now, finding an in-person yoga class is tricky. Luckily, we're in an age of online everything. I love the YouTube series Yoga with Adriene. (You can watch all of her free videos here.)

Many gyms and yoga studios have moved to online offerings now, too. Companies like Peloton offer a range of workout videos, including yoga. Some places also offer senior-focused practices as well, like the YMCA. So check in with your local yoga studio, gym, or even senior center to see what they offer. It's time to get off the couch and get moving!

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 19, 2020