- Reviewed by Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
We tend to think of exercise as movement that either raises your heart rate (aerobic exercise) or builds muscles (strength training). But two other factors — flexibility and balance — are also important for a well-rounded fitness program, especially for older adults. A yoga practice has the potential to target all four factors at the same time. What's more, a recent study suggests that yoga has modest yet positive effects on several factors linked to cardiovascular health (see "How yoga may help your heart").
"The reason behind these benefits isn't entirely clear, but we believe that multiple, simultaneous mechanisms are probably at play," says Dr. Darshan Mehta, medical director of the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. Yoga is more than simply stretching and moving into poses — it weaves together three interconnected threads: physical postures, controlled breathing, and meditation. Together, they help cultivate the relaxation response, which trains your body to be less reactive during times of stress.
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About the Author
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter
About the Reviewer
Christopher P. Cannon, MD, Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter; Editorial Advisory Board Member, Harvard Health Publishing
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