While numerous studies have shown short-term physical and psychological benefits from yoga, research being presented today at the 58th Annual Meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine and 2nd World Congress on Exercise is Medicine® looks at how long-time practitioners of yoga compare to habitual exercisers.

A research team led by Brittanie DeChino, a graduate student and instructor at The George Washington University in the School of Public Health and Health Services, surveyed 163 participants recruited from yoga studios and fitness clubs in the Washington, D.C. area.

"We surveyed the participants on psychological well-being, as measured by anxiety, depression, coping, mindfulness, perceived stress and general health symptoms," said DeChino. "Interestingly, the two groups - yoga practitioners and habitual exercisers - were similar with regard to self-reported symptoms of anxiety and depression. However, the yoga practitioners reported lower prevalence of joint pain and headaches than those who engaged in cardiovascular exercise and weight training. They also had higher scores for mindfulness and coping skills, and lower scores for perceived stress, compared with the exercise group."

The 132 female and 31 male participants were primarily Caucasian (88 percent) and of higher educational attainment, ranging from 18 to 65 years of age. According to DeChino, the enduring and specific benefits of yoga to mindfulness and consequent stress reduction should be emphasized in community-based health promotion strategies.

American College of Sports Medicine