Want to stay healthy this Winter? Get on your yoga mat! New research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine shows that yoga can boost your immune system, helping you fight off the winter bugs. What’s more, yoga has also been shown to decrease inflammation. That’s a big deal when you consider that inflammation is associated with many health conditions, including depression, auto-immune diseases, cancer, IBS and heart disease.
Here’s how it works. When the body and mind are under stress, the immune system is compromised, leading to chronic inflammation. While this inflammatory response can be helpful in fighting injuries and infections, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can cause serious health problems.
A review of fifteen randomized controlled trials revealed that yoga can ‘downregulate pro-inflammatory markers’. That means people doing yoga had lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (a protein implicated in inflammation), as well as scoring better on immune cell counts, antibodies and other markers of inflammation.
One study demonstrated that yoga can increase levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines, proteins which actively reduce inflammation. Another study found that yoga can positively affect immune system response at a genomic level, directly impacting the expression of genes that produce pro-inflammatory cytokines.
While the yoga programs that featured in this research varied in duration, most programs lasted between 8-12 weeks, with participants practicing yoga either weekly or daily. The message is that regular, consistent yoga practice can have a significant positive impact on immune system functioning, helping you ward off winter bugs and, more importantly, protect you from the damaging health consequences of chronic inflammation.
Reference: Falkenberg RI, Eising C, & Peters ML. (2018)
Yoga and immune system functioning: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. J Behav Med. 2018 Feb 10. doi: 10.1007/s10865-018-9914-y.
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