The Importance of Exercise & Yoga

The tree pose helps hone balance.
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Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, contributing to the longevity and your quality of life. A well-rounded fitness program includes aerobic, strength, core, balance and flexibility training. Including yoga along with cardiovascular and strength training helps you fit in all of these components as well as reduce stress.

Benefits of Exercise

The Harvard School of Public Health explains that regular exercise protects you from heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, certain cancers, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. As you age, exercise helps you stay functional and helps prevent falling, which can lead to serious complications. Exercise is intrinsic to weight management and efficient lung and heart function. You may experience less depression and anxiety with regular exercise.

Yoga's Health Benefits

Yoga is included in the official exercise recommendations of major health organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a way to improve strength. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that a regular yoga practice correlates with reduced anxiety and stress and may provide relief from the symptoms of arthritis, asthma, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease and irritable bowel syndrome. A study published in the November 2011 issue of the “Archives of Internal Medicine” found that adults with chronic low back pain who participated in a 12-week yoga program experienced greater relief and improvement in function than those who participated in more traditional medical forms of care for up to 12 months.

Balance and Core

Balance training is an important, but often neglected, component of physical fitness. If you fail to train balance, you lose it as you age, leaving you vulnerable to falling. Yoga is one of the best ways to include balance training into your fitness routine. Many postures ask you to stand on one leg or in a split stance which challenges stability. A lot of yoga poses, especially the warrior pose, plank pose and boat pose, also help tone the muscles of the trunk – the hips, abdominals and lower back. These muscles contribute to balance and improve back function.


One of the key aspects of a yoga practice is flexibility. Flexibility training keeps your joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles supple. The American Council on Exercise notes that it can also reduce the risk of injury and muscle soreness. Regular flexibility training may promote better posture and help you do activities requiring a greater range of motion, from dancing to reaching up to a high shelf.

Additional Benefits

Yoga's attention to breathing techniques and meditation can also improve your health. Dee Ann Birkel, an emeritus professor at Ball State's School of Physical Education who has conducted studies on yoga’s impact on physical fitness, noted in an article on the online version of “Yoga Journal” that yoga poses help increase lung capacity because they stretch out the area around the shoulders, back and ribs providing more room for chest and lung expansion. Linking breath and movement, such as in a flowing vinyasa class, provides an aerobic component and standing or arm balancing poses build strength. The meditative aspect of yoga can be a powerful stress reducer as suggested by a study published in “Circulation” in 2009. This study found that a specific type of yoga-inspired meditation, called transcendental, was associated with a 43 percent reduction in risk for all cause mortality, myocardial infarction and stroke in a high-risk group.

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