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Everybody knows that yoga is good for you.  I’ve never gotten into it, but I’m well aware of its health benefits.  A new study from the University of Connecticut in the US has found that practicing yoga could help improve protein utilization among older women, leading to the maintenance of muscle at an age that muscle loss is common.  This study, soon to be published in the “Journal of Aging and Physical Activity”, is the first one to look at the relationship between yoga and the body’s use of protein.  

Protein utilization plays a large factor in maintaining muscle at any age, particularly when preventing debilitating age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia.  The purpose of this study, according to researchers, was to look at yoga as an alternative form of exercise for maintaining muscle mass as we age.  Named “NAMASTE” (Novel Approaches to Maintaining Muscle and Strength), it followed two groups of women between the ages of 50 and 65 over six months.  One group hadn’t done routine exercise for at least a year, while the other was made up of women who practiced Vinyasa yoga at least twice a week for at least a year.  This is considered a more vigorous practice, and includes numerous “Sun salutations”, a movement that’s been shown to increase heart rate and improve cardiovascular endurance.  

For the study, the researchers looked at the first phase of the study, when they determined the differences in protein utilization, strength, balance and body composition between those who practiced yoga and those who didn’t.  They also looked at differences in calorie and protein intake.  Protein use was assessed by following nitrogen from the amino acid “glycine”.  The researchers characterized strength by testing hand grip, and balance was evaluated by using timed one-legged standing tests.  For diet, researchers monitored weekly eating records.

Although body weight and BMI were similar, body fat was lower and muscle mass higher for the yoga group, who also tended to have better balance.  Yogis burned more fat and had lower rates of protein synthesis breakdown, which may be associated with maintaining routine yoga practices.  This study lays the groundwork for further research both into yoga and healthy aging.  Its effects on the use of protein by the body suggests that it offers a multitude of benefits which support healthy, active aging.  The relatively low stress of yoga on joints also makes it accessible and easier for older adults than other forms of exercise, such as running.  

If you’d like to learn more, you can check it out here!