Stand up for Health: Using Yoga as a Transitional Platform to Increase Physical Activity Levels in Sedentary Adults

Monday, 28 July 2014: 9:10 AM

Kyeongra Yang, PhD, MPH, RN
Amanda Lefkowitz, MA, BSN, RN
Lienhard School of Nursing, Pace University, Pleasantville, NY

Physical inactivity is linked to debilitating chronic diseases (Neal, 2013; Dwyer-Lindgren et al., 2013) and deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (US Burden of Disease Collaborators, 2013). Despite best efforts to promote physical activity (PA) in the last decade, research found very minimal improvement in the percentage of adults increasing PA levels (Carlson et al., 2010) and physical inactivity remains highly prevalent in the U.S. (CDC, 2010a; CDC, 2010b; CDC, 2013). Research confirmed weight status was significantly associated with physical inactivity (Dorsey et al., 2011; Young et al., 2009); accordingly, the chronically sedentary may find it especially difficult to adopt and maintain an active lifestyle.  As such, radical adjustments and new strategies to increase PA among sedentary adults must be explored. One alternative form of PA that may be an effective intervention in the fight against physical inactivity is yoga (Bernstein et al., 2013; Bryan et al., 2012). Weekly yoga among sedentary adults led to improved health outcomes (Groessl et al., 2013). Hatha yoga, the most accessible form of yoga, can improve strength and flexibility, lower obesity and reduce physiological/psychological distress (Dhananjai et al., 2013). Yoga participation and mastery can also improve the degree of exercise self-efficacy, and perhaps, lead to adherence to a PA program and its attendant benefits (Yang et al., 2011; Oleshansky, 2004).

Purpose: The purposes of this 6-month pilot study were to investigate whether a mind-body exercise program was an effective tool to increase PA levels and whether the delivery method of the program, either instructor-based or self-guided, influenced the level of change among community-dwelling overweight sedentary adults.

Methods: The yoga program used in this study consisted of 2-months of an intervention period in which participants practiced 90-minute weekly sessions of Hatha yoga either directly by guidance from an instructor [Face Group] or indirectly by self-learning from a DVD [DVD Group], followed by 4-months of self-reported PA maintenance. Participants were screened for age, family history of diabetes, and medical and/or physical conditions that would prevent them from exercise in order to ensure safety of the intervention. Measurements were recorded at baseline, 2, 4, and 6 months. Program adherence was measured by self-reported minutes/week of PA; sedentary behaviors/levels of PA were monitored by the Modifiable Activity Questionnaire. Descriptive statistics and nonparametric tests were used to describe the sample and examine differences by group and time.  

Results: Fourteen adults (10 White, 4 Non-white) participated in the study. Their mean age was 58.6 years (SD = 5.4) and 12 (85.7 %) was female. Their mean years of completed education was 15.0 (SD = 2.1) and the mean BMI was 31.8 ± 5.8 kg/m2. There was no significant differences in demographic variables between groups. Results showed significant changes in PA levels from baseline to each measurement point (p < .05). Although both groups in this pilot study showed increased PA, the DVD Group showed higher levels of PA at each interval than the Face Group (statistical significance occurring at 4 months). The participants of this study also reported yoga increased their strength, flexibility, balance, and mind-body awareness.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that a yoga program, either instructor-based or self-guided, may be used as a transitional platform to increase regular PA among overweight sedentary adults. Further research with a larger sample is needed to evaluate the efficacy of this program, with a particular focus on the use of the self-guided method.