Mind-body exercises such as yoga and Pilates are not only beneficial for stress management, but have other potential health advantages as well, according to a research analysis provided by an expert at today’s American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition.

Ralph La Forge, M.S., reviewed recent literature on mind/body exercises and found that since 2000, the number of published mind-body and mindful exercise research studies and well-controlled trials has continued to grow. Points of note from La Forge’s extensive review included:

  • Some yoga and other mind-body exercises can meet ACSM recommendations for improving or maintaining health and cardiovascular fitness. According to research reviewed by La Forge, the cardio-respiratory and metabolic cost of traditional yoga programs vary according to the yoga style, pose sequence and fitness level of the student. La Forge noted that not all forms of yoga met exercise intensity recommendations for levels of physical activity for improving or maintaining health or cardiovascular fitness. However, he says certain heart-health benefits can still be derived from these types of yoga. “There are other qualities of mind-body fitness, like relaxation, that can improve cardiovascular health besides the intensity of exercise,” Forge said.
  • Mind-body exercises can be easily adapted into warm-up and cool-down routines for traditional exercises, such as running, says La Forge. Practicing restorative yoga during cool-down sessions and performing Tai Chi to improve balance are two methods of incorporating mind/body exercises as preventative care during existing physical activity programs.
  • One significant study La Forge overviewed looked at yogic lifestyles and its impact on the progression of coronary artery disease in patients. This study showed that yogic lifestyle can slow the progression of coronary artery disease. The study took into account a full spectrum of lifestyle qualities, such as yogic lifestyles which include dietary, meditation, walking and yoga exercise.
  • La Forge’s research study also found that mind-centered therapies have an important role in pain management and rehabilitation. “Research support for Pilates and yoga-based programs for low-back pain has increased. This presents an opportunity for mind/body exercise professionals to incorporate these exercises into their client practices,” he said.