Can Yoga Practice Reduce Obesity And Metabolic Syndrome?

May 14, 2019

How does yoga practice affect markers of metabolic syndrome?

Research Study At A Glance

Research Study At A Glance

The Research Question Asked

Can one year of yoga practice reduce obesity and the indicators of metabolic syndrome?

Type of Study

Clinical study – randomized control trial

Study Participants (Sample)

Sample size: 79

Study participants:

  • Age 58±8 years old
  • Female and male
  • All study participants were clinically obese


Metabolic peptide levels in blood serum extracted from study participants who completed one year of yoga practice three times per week were compared to metabolic peptide levels of a control group who did no yoga practice.


Multiple markers of metabolic syndrome, including waist circumference, resting heart rate, and levels of four metabolic peptides, were positively influenced in the yoga treatment group compared to the control group.


One year of yoga practice positively improved markers of metabolic syndrome and reduced waist circumference. That suggests that yoga practice helps counteract metabolic syndrome and contributes to reducing obesity.

Yoga, Obesity, and Metabolic Syndrome


Metabolic syndrome is a name for a group of conditions, which together can be a precursor to type-2 diabetes and can be associated with heart disease and stroke. Metabolic syndrome is commonly associated with clinical obesity. The level of certain chemicals in the body that are involved with metabolism, called metabolic peptides, can tell us something about whether an individual is experiencing metabolic syndrome.

Research question

Can one year of yoga practice reduce obesity and the indicators of metabolic syndrome?

Research methods

The research team randomly assigned participants to either the yoga treatment group or the control group. The yoga treatment group did a hatha yoga asana practice three times/week for one hour. A yoga instructor led each yoga practice and participants practiced in small groups of approximately 10 participants per group. The research paper did not report whether any participants had previous yoga experience prior to participating in the study.

Participants in the treatment group completed one year of yoga practice. Those in the control group did no yoga. All participants were middle-aged (58±8 years old) and clinically obese. The researchers analyzed indicators of metabolic syndrome (β-cell function, insulin resistance, levels of four metabolic peptides, and insulin level) for differences between the treatment and control groups. They measured levels of individual body chemicals which they isolated from blood serum. They collected serum from participants before yoga treatment and then again after one year of yoga treatment.


There were significant differences in measures of metabolic syndrome between the group that did yoga practice and the control group, which did no yoga practice after one year of yoga practice done three times per week. Waist circumference and resting heart rate were lower in the yoga practice group than the control group. Additionally, the researchers found positive changes in metabolic peptides in the yoga practice group compared to the control group. The metabolic peptides ghrelin, unacylated ghrelin, and growth hormone increased, and acylated ghrelin and obestatin decreased in the yoga practice group compared to the control group. There were no differences in insulin levels between the yoga practice treatment group and the control group.

Why is this relevant to yoga practitioners?

This paper contributes to a larger body of research that shows that yoga has health and wellness benefits beyond simply gaining muscular strength and increasing flexibility. The common sedentary nature of our lives, combined with the time pressures we often face due to busy work and life schedules, can result in us making less-than-optimal lifestyle choices with respect to food and movement. As a result of those lifestyle choices, obesity and metabolic syndrome have become a serious health concern. Yoga practice offers us a tool for addressing these aspects of health and wellness.


This research offers encouraging results for those who are struggling to manage metabolic syndrome and/or obesity. Of course, we need to address lifestyle choices and other conditions that predispose us to metabolic syndrome. But, it’s encouraging that yoga practice was able to counteract some measures of metabolic syndrome and obesity. Yoga practice offers one tool in an overall management plan for metabolic syndrome and obesity, with little to no negative side effects, that could contribute to generating a positive feedback loop and potentially even contribute to creating better lifestyle habits over the long term.

Reference citation

Yu, A.P., F.N. Ugwu, B.T. Tam, P.H. Lee, C.W. Lai, C.S.C. Wong, W.W. Larn, S. Sheridan, and P.M. Siu. 2018. One year of yoga training alters ghrelin axis in centrally obese adults with metabolic syndrome. Frontiers in Physiology. 9:1321.