The Well-Being Journal

Power of Yoga to Improve Cardiovascular Risk

Amy Katz

Is yoga good for your heart? It could be as healthy for your heart as cycling.

According to a new study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, yoga may be as beneficial as more traditional physical activities such as walking or biking in reducing the risks of cardiovascular disease.

Investigators from the United States and Netherlands conducted a systematic review of 37 randomized controlled trials, which included 2,768 subjects. The aim of the analysis was to examine whether yoga is beneficial in managing and improving cardiovascular disease risk factors and whether it could be an effective therapy for cardiovascular health.

The study compared those who practiced yoga with those who didn’t. Those who practiced yoga had:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower LDL (bad cholesterol)
  • Lower body mass index (BMI)
  • Increased HDL (good cholesterol)

Results showed that risk factors for cardiovascular disease improved more in those practicing yoga than in those not taking part in any aerobic exercise. In fact, yoga had an effect on risk factors comparable to aerobic exercise.

The study’s authors write, “This finding is significant, as individuals who cannot or prefer not to perform traditional aerobic exercise might still achieve similar benefits in [cardiovascular] risk reduction.” They go on to observe that “Yoga has the potential to be a cost-effective treatment and prevention strategy given its low cost, lack of expensive equipment or technology, potential greater adherence and health-related quality of life improvements, and possible accessibility to larger segments of the population.”

The prevalence and cost of cardiac disease is growing. As the number 1 cause of death in America, heart disease accounts for some 600,000 deaths per year. Indeed, 40 percent of the U.S. population is expected to have some form of cardiovascular disease in the next 20 years, according to the American Heart Association. The cost of heart disease in healthcare services, medications, and lost productivity tops $109 billion per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The American Heart Association still recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, but this study could lead to yoga as a recommended therapy for patients with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Linking yoga to cardiovascular health is not a new concept—for over 30 years, Dr. Dean Ornish has recommended yoga for reducing stress. In fact, the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart DiseaseTM includes yoga as one of the fundamental activities for reversing heart disease. To learn more about the Ornish program, please visit www.undoitwithornish.com.

Topics: Prevention Science and Research Health Status Ornish Lifestyle Medicine

Creating a Catalyst for Worldwide Change

Madison Agee

By: Ben R. Leedle Jr., President and CEO, Healthways

Ben Leedle Healthways President and CEO Ben Leedle

Almost seven years ago, we started on a journey with Gallup — a journey to measure well-being and explore the dimensions of a life well-lived. Our goal was to understand what is important to people, how we experience our day-to-day lives, and what we think our lives will be like in the future. We wanted to determine what distinguishes a thriving life from one spent suffering, to broaden the perspective that health is more than just physical. And we sought to understand how this more holistic definition of well-being could influence outcomes that are crucial to societies.

Through decades of research and with the help of many leading experts, we’ve been able to scientifically determine the elements of well-being that are the most predictive and actionable. These include our sense of purpose, our relationships, our financial security, our connection to our communities and our physical health. By thinking of well-being in this broader way, we can better understand the conditions affecting any population and, from there, develop targeted interventions that make a meaningful difference.

We’ve shown that even modest improvements in well-being can substantially lower healthcare costs and increase worker productivity within organizations. We’ve proven that scalable change can be realized across communities.

So where are we on our journey?

We continue to advance the science of well-being with Gallup to measure and study the well-being of populations globally. Together, we’ve amassed the world’s largest data set on well-being with more than 2 million surveys of U.S. adults. We’ve extended our reach around the world to create a “golden thread” of well-being information across 135 countries.

We now have a truly global picture of well-being. We can measure the elements that make up well-being, compare the relationships between well-being and other population metrics, and gauge the impact of well-being improvement initiatives in almost any country in the world. Our finding that only 17 percent of the world’s population is thriving in three elements or more tells us there’s much work to be done globally to improve well-being. This work includes promoting sustainable lifestyle changes and making environmental changes to develop communities that encourage high well-being.

We hope you’ll join us on this journey. It’s a journey that fosters thinking beyond traditional metrics that broadens our perspectives to include the essential elements that impact our daily lives. It’s a journey that connects well-being to any population that’s front-and-center for you — be it your employees, your community, your country, or, just as importantly, yourself and your family.

Measuring and understanding well-being matters to the employers that want to improve workforce performance, to the non-profits and international organizations that want to see positive outcomes in their development work, and to the governments that want to strengthen their communities. And it matters to all of us, as individuals who want to live better.


Download the Global Well-Being Index Report

Topics: Well-Being In the News Well-Being Index Gallup Health Conditions Science and Research Health Status

Which Has a Greater Impact on Employee Productivity: Well-Being or Chronic Disease?

Madison Agee

Having a chronic condition no doubt has an impact on your productivity at work. Employers are well aware of this fact, and typically structure their wellness programs to focus on improving their employees’ physical health to prevent productivity loss. This approach is understandable, given that the existing body of scientific literature supports the idea that physical health (such as the presence or absence of chronic illnesses) is the primary contributor to worker productivity.

However, findings from a new study recently published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has called this commonly held belief into question. The study showed that employees’ well-being is actually a more important contributor to on-the-job productivity than their chronic disease status. The study, “Comparing the Contributions of Well-Being and Disease Status to Employee Productivity,” is the first to challenge the common belief that physical health is the primary contributor to employee productivity levels. It’s also the first study to specifically show that well-being improvement can increase productivity in both healthy populations and those with disease.

Well-being is a more complex and holistic measure. Well-being considers not only the important role of physical health but also a person’s sense of purpose, social relationships, financial security and community attachment.

“As individuals, we intuitively know that we are not at our best when we are stressed about anything that is important to our well-being,” said James E. Pope M.D., chief science officer at Healthways and coauthor of the article. “What this research has shown is how these elements of well-being interact to drive decreased productivity. Equally exciting is the discovery that programs designed to help improve the overall well-being can improve the productivity of both healthy and chronically ill individuals alike.

“Measuring employee well-being and understanding the unique aspects of their populations will help employers achieve more successful outcomes with their programs. Higher well-being manifests in greater degrees of creativity, innovation and employee engagement, all of which can improve value for employers by shifting the focus from productivity loss to productivity gain.”

The two-year survey tracked the well-being of more than 2,600 employees at three different companies. Researchers divided the employees into two groups: those that had no chronic conditions and those with diabetes (these individuals may have had other health conditions). Diabetes was selected as the focus chronic condition due to its prevalence and demonstrated impact on productivity.

The study showed that employees with higher well-being demonstrated greater workplace productivity, regardless of whether they suffered from chronic conditions. In addition, well-being was more important than chronic disease or demographic factors in defining how productive a person would be in any given year. Over time, changes in well-being contributed significantly to shifts in productivity beyond what could be explained by any individual characteristic, such as disease status, age, gender or socioeconomic status.

To read more about improving on-the-job productivity, download a copy of Healthways’ eBook 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Improving Productivity in the Workplace.

Topics: Well-Being In the News Workplace Well-Being Healthcare Competitive Advantage Productivity Health Conditions Science and Research Health Status