The slow stretches and meditations of yoga
don't burn calories like a run on the treadmill. But a new study suggests
it might help people keep weight off in middle age.
Researchers found that overweight people in their 50s who regularly
practiced yoga lost about five pounds over 10 years, while a group in the
same age range gained about 13 1/2 pounds over the same period.
Middle-aged people of normal weight generally put on pounds over 10
years, but those who did yoga gained less weight than those who didn't
The link between yoga and weight loss has nothing to do with burning
calories, said Alan Kristal, one of the researchers from the Fred
Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who co-authored the study.
"Except for very strenuous
yoga practices, you don't really burn enough energy to
make any difference in terms of weight," said Kristal, who has practiced
yoga for 10 years.
Instead, he thinks yoga helps keep people more in tune with their
bodies and eating habits and aware of bad habits, such as eating because
of stress, boredom or depression.
The researchers collected data from 15,500 people between the ages of
53 and 57 who were asked about exercise, weight, health and diet
histories. The findings, published in the July/August issue of Alternative
Therapies in Health and Medicine, showed that those who practiced yoga
tended to avoid junk food and overeating because they wanted to respect
Mary Imani, a yoga teacher at 8 Limbs Yoga Center, said it's difficult
to eat heavily and do yoga. "It's hard to do certain movements when you've
just had a slice of pizza," she said.
Gary Miller, who studies obesity and weight loss at Wake
Forest University in North Carolina, called the research encouraging, but
said it's difficult to prove a direct influence from a single study.
Most yoga fans say weight loss is just an added bonus from the
disciplined form of meditation, controlled breathing and prescribed postures .