A regular yoga regime can be more effective at lowering some of the risks associated with developing Type 2 diabetes than a regular walking programme, according to researchers in India and the United States.

Adults in India who participated in yoga classes for between three and six days per week over eight weeks experienced “significantly greater reductions” in weight loss, waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) than a group of adults who participated in monitored walking activity for three to six days weekly over the same time period, a new study has found.

Excessive weight and waist circumference and body mass are all regarded as factors which can put individuals at increased risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.

Both yoga and walking participants also showed significant reductions in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, anxiety, depression, negative affect and perceived stress over the course of the study.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Osher Center for Integrative Health and the Department of Medicine at the University of California along with the Institute for Holistic Health Studies at San Francisco State University and the Swami Vivekanada Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana in Bangalore, India.

According to researchers 366 million people globally were believed to have Type 2 diabetes in 2011 and that is projected to increase by 51% to 552 million by the year 2030. India follows this global trend with 60 million people in the country believed to have Type 2 diabetes in 2011, a figure which is projected to rise by 63% to 98 million by 2030. Genetic predisposition exacerbated by environmental factors such as greater prosperity and urbanization resulting in obesity and insulin resistance are believed to factors contributing to the problem in India.

Researchers behind the new study point out that India has a “rich history” of using yoga to manage Type 2 diabetes in India, where there is also a high prevalence of prediabetes, which can increase the risk of developing the Type 2 diabetes.

They highlight that lifestyle interventions including exercise have been found to be effective in offsetting Type 2 diabetes complications and the progression from prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes.

The new study is published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Researchers concluded: “Among Indians with elevated fasting blood glucose, we found that participation in an 8-week yoga intervention was feasible and resulted in greater weight loss and reduction in waist circumference when compared to a walking control. Yoga offers a promising lifestyle intervention for decreasing weight-related type 2 diabetes risk factors and potentially increasing psychological well-being.”

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