“Modest yoga practise over a period of several months could have substantial benefits for breast cancer survivors,” claimed Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, professor of psychiatry and psychology at Ohio State University in the US.
“The results could easily generalise to other groups of people who have issues with fatigue and inflammation,” added Kiecolt-Glaser.
To reach this conclusion, researchers asked 200 participants to practise yoga in small groups twice a week for 12 weeks.
Women in the control group were instructed to perform normal routines and not to do yoga.
Results showed that on average, fatigue was 57 percent lower in women who had practiced yoga compared to the non-yoga group, and their inflammation was reduced by up to 20 percent.
“The participants had completed all breast cancer treatments before the start of the study,” said the study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The more the women in the study practised yoga, the better their results.
“Though many studies have suggested that yoga has numerous benefits, this is the largest known randomised controlled trial that includes biological measures,” Kiecolt-Glaser said.
Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health problems, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and alzheimer’s disease.
A secondary analysis showed that more frequent yoga practise produced larger changes in fatigue, vitality and depressive symptoms as well as between an average 4 to 6 percent reduction in two of the three pro-inflammatory cytokines.
The yoga group also reported significantly improved sleep compared to the control group.
“Yoga has many parts to it – meditation, breathing, stretching and strengthening. We think the breathing and meditation components were really important in terms of some of the changes we were seeing,” Kiecolt-Glaser stressed.
Reducing fatigue enables women to engage in other activities over time. So yoga may have offered a variety of benefits in addition to the yoga exercises themselves, added the study.