Yoga could be a way for overweight teens to get in shape and lose weight, new research shows.
According to the CDC, the percentage of young people who are overweight has more than tripled since 1980, with 16% of children aged 6-19 considered to be overweight.
In a recent study, high school students practicing yoga and breathing exercises on a regular basis shed an average of 6 pounds and trimmed their BMI (body mass index) by nearly 6%.
The finding comes from Anand Shetty, EdD, of Hampton University in Yorktown, Va.
"I recommend 30 minutes of pranayama [breathing exercises] and yoga, three to four times a week," Shetty says in an American Heart Association news release. "This also can easily be incorporated at home during leisure time with other family members."
Shetty's study is being presented in Phoenix, at the American Heart Association's 46th annual conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention.
Striking a Yoga Pose
Shetty studied 60 high school students for three months.
He randomly assigned half of the students to do yoga and breathing exercises for 40 minutes, four days per week, during the study. The breathing exercises used "quiet, deep, forced breathing," Shetty says. Yoga includes postures that help build overall well-being.
For comparison, the other students did their normal activities, without the yoga program.
At the study's start, average BMI was 22.8 in the yoga group and 22.3 in the comparison group. Those BMIs aren't considered overweight for adults. But teens are different, because they're still growing taller and BMI relates height to weight.
"Therefore, by adult BMI standards, we underestimate the normal BMI for teens," Shetty says. "For this study, only students with a BMI greater than 22 were selected."
Yoga Group Slimmed Down
When the study ended, the yoga group had lost 6 pounds and 1.3 points on their BMI, on average.
Dieting wasn't required. The yoga group's weight loss may stem from the exercises, or perhaps they ate less, Shetty says.
The yoga and breathing exercises used the teens' abdominal muscles. Using those muscles temporarily contracts the abdomen, including the stomach, Shetty notes.
He didn't study stomach size but suggests future research on the relationship between stomach size and hunger, as well as yoga's effects on brain function, feelings of fullness, and hormones related to metabolism.
By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Medical News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
SOURCES: American Heart Association's 46th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology and Prevention, Phoenix, March 2-5, 2006. CDC: "Overweight and Obesity." News release, American Heart Association.