If you have high cholesterol, one of the lifestyle changes you might consider as you work to bring your levels down is to start a workout program. While many doctors suggest brisk walks or resistance training, regular yoga can also improve your cholesterol. You can practice in a class online, in a studio with a group, or at home for free.
Yoga’s Effect on Cholesterol
On a biological level, exercise improves the things that affect cholesterol. “The idea here is that yoga can be sort of like aerobics and resistance exercise. Those types of exercises have a very established benefit to cholesterol,” says Bethany Barone Gibbs, PhD, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who studies the effects of healthy lifestyle behaviors on cardiometabolic disease.
“We know that there are anti-inflammatory effects. Exercise can reduce the low-density lipoproteins and it has probably the biggest effect on triglycerides. And then it also has the great benefit of increasing high-density lipoproteins. The overall changes in the cholesterol profile are all good.”
There’s currently limited research on the link between yoga and lipid levels specifically. But there is more data on how it affects other things that impact high cholesterol.
“Yoga isn't this magic pill that you take, and then you get all these benefits,” says Sally Sherman, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, who researches the effects of yoga on health. But she notes that it leads indirectly to desirable effects. For example, “We know that yoga improves sleep. And (that) can really act as a pathway for so many other health benefits.” Many of these benefits, she says, actually show up as things like lowered cholesterol.
In a study, Sherman found that the energy expenditure for Vinyasa yoga reflected that of a moderate to intense workout, like brisk walking. Physical activity done at this le...