50+ health * Healthy living

Yoga helps healthy ageing

Lowers blood compound linked to stress and inflammation

Regularly practising yoga may lower an inflammatory compound normally associated with ageing and stress, a new study has shown.

A study at Ohio State University found that women who regularly practice yoga had lower amounts of interleukin-6 (IL-6) in their blood.

IL-6 is produced by cells of the immune system and is an important part of the body's inflammatory response. It has been implicated in heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, arthritis and a range of other age-related debilitating diseases.

Reducing inflammation may provide both long and short term health benefits, said the researchers.

In the study, 50 women aged around 41 were grouped as either novices - who were new to yoga - or experts - women who practised yoga at least twice a week for two years.

The women took part in tasks designed to increase their stress levels, such as immersing a foot into extremely cold water and solving maths problems (paper and pencils not allowed).

As this was happening, they also underwent psychological tests and donated blood for testing. This was followed by a yoga session.

When tested for the inflammatory compound IL-6, the researchers found that the women in the novice group had levels of IL-6 that were 41% higher than those in expert group.

Women who practised yoga also had smaller increases in IL-6 after stressful experiences than women of the same age and weight who had never practised yoga.

"In essence, the experts walked into the study with lower levels of inflammation than the novices, and the experts were also better able to limit their stress responses than were the novices," said Janet Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology who led the study.

"Hopefully, this means that people can eventually learn to respond less strongly to stressors in their everyday lives by using yoga and other stress-reducing modalities."

Study co-author Ron Glaser, professor of molecular virology, immunology and medical genetics, said the study had clear implications for health.

"We know that inflammation plays a major role in many diseases. Yoga appears to be a simple and enjoyable way to add an intervention that might reduce risks for developing heart disease, diabetes and other age-related diseases" he said.

"This is an easy thing people can do to help reduce their risks of illness, he added.

The study findings are published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine

This article was published on Thu 14 January 2010

Image © diego cervo #6110171

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