Maybe you're a gym rat who loves lifting weights, or a sports nut who participate in leagues, or a cardio queen who can't get enough of the treadmill, or yoga classes. But which one is better for your psychological health?
In the first long-term study of its kind, researchers at The George Washington University School of Public Health compared the psychological health benefits of traditional cardio and strength training to yoga to see how they matched up.
The Research and ResultsResearchers led by Brittanie DeChino surveyed 163 participants who were either long-term yoga practitioners or habitual exercisers. The surveys collected information on anxiety, depression, coping, mindfulness, perceived stress, joint pain, headaches and other health issues.
Overall the two groups had very similar scores related to anxiety and depression, confirming what researchers have long known to be true—that exercise can help prevent these two conditions.
However, yoga practitioners had greater mindfulness and coping skills and less perceived stress than the habitual exercisers. Yoga practitioners also reported fewer headaches and less joint pain.
The TakeawayThis study looked more closely at the psychological benefits of exercise—not other health benefits like cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength. So you may not want to ditch your gym session just yet.
But, if you find that your stress levels are starting to spike and you're experiencing tension headaches as a result, it may be time to expand your exercise routine to include yoga. It does take some getting used to if you're more inclined toward hard-hitting workouts, but you may be surprised at how much you start looking forward to your contemplative routine.
Keep your heart healthy with a training plan.
Laura Williams writes about exercise and fitness for Exercise.com through her regular column "Exercise Science". She is currently completing her master's in Exercise Science.