Regularly practicing yoga exercises may lower a number of compounds in the blood and reduce the level of inflammation that normally rises because of both normal aging and stress, a new study has shown.
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The study, done by Ohio State University researchers and just reported in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, showed that women who routinely practiced yoga had lower amounts of the cytokine interleukin-6 in their blood.
The women also showed smaller increases in IL-6 after stressful experiences than did women who were the same age and weight but who were not yoga practitioners.
IL-6 is an important part of the body's inflammatory response and has been implicated in HIV disease, heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, arthritis, and a host of other diseases. Reducing inflammation may provide substantial short- and long-term health benefits, the researchers suggest.
"In addition to having lower levels of inflammation before they were stressed, we also saw lower inflammatory responses to stress among the expert yoga practitioners in the study," explained Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology and lead author of 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."
Ron Glaser, a coauthor and a professor of molecular virology, immunology, and medical genetics, said the study has some fairly 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."