An Australian study finds the ancient practice of yoga may provide a sustainable exercise alternative for people isolating at home.
Investigators from the University of South Australia (UniSA), discovered that movement-based yoga can significantly improve mental health. The study appears in the British Journal of Sports Medicine and was conducted in partnership with the Federal University of Santa Maria, UNSW Sydney, Kings College London and Western Sydney University.
Investigators found the mental health improvements were proportional to the amount of yoga they practiced. This dose-response suggests that the more a person practices yoga, the greater the benefits.
Lead researcher and UniSA PhD candidate Jacinta Brinsley said it’s a welcome and timely finding given strict social distancing measures that limit exercise options.
“As self-isolation escalates and people find themselves working from home and unable to physically catch up with their friends and family, we’re likely to see more people feel lonely and disconnected,” Brinsley said.
“Exercise has always been a great strategy for people struggling with these feelings as it boosts both mood and health. But as gyms and exercise classes of all kinds are now closed — even jogging with a friend is strongly discouraged — people are looking for alternatives, and this is where yoga can help.
“Our research shows that movement-based yoga improved symptoms of depression (or improved mental health) for people living with a range of mental health conditions including anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and major depression. So, it’s very good news for people struggling in times of uncertainty.”
Researchers examined 19 studies (1080 participants) across six countries (US, India, Japan, China, Germany and Sweden), where individuals had a formal diagnosis of a mental disorder, including depression and anxiety. The researchers defined movement-based yoga as any form of yoga where participants are physically active at least 50 percent of the time, that is forms of yoga that emphasize holding poses and flowing through sequences of poses.
Globally, around 450 million people suffer from mental health issues, with the World Health Organization reporting that one in four people will be affected by a mental health condition or a neurological disorder at some point in their lives. In Australia, almost half of adults (aged 18-85 years) will experience mental illness.
Associate Professor Simon Rosenbaum said while the results are promising, challenges remain.
“Importantly, the most vulnerable in our community are often the least likely to have access to exercise or yoga programs despite the potential benefits,” Rosenbaum said.
“Our results have significant implications and demonstrate that you don’t necessarily need to go for a jog to benefit from movement.”
Source: University of South Australia