Yoga AND Walking: more effective against Diabetes than either alone

According to recent studies, yoga is more effective than walking in improving the health of diabetic patients.  However, yoga and walking together, is the most effective therapeutic combination for diabetes treatment and prevention. 

In 2011, Researchers at Alagappa University in India studied 60 patients between the ages of 30 and 40 for 12 weeks in four groups:

  • Control Group
  • Experimental Group 1 Walking
  • Experimental Group 2 Yoga
  • Experimental Group 3 Yoga and Walking

Six characteristics were measured including: Respiratory; Vital (Lung) Capacity; Blood Sugar; Cholesterol; Anxiety and Stress. 

Blood sugar levels, in particular, showed improvement in the study.  The Walking Group demonstrated a 3.25% improvement over the Control Group. However, the Yoga Group showed 13.31% and the Yoga and Walking Group, an even greater, 18.77% improvement. 

Similar patterns of improvement were demonstrated across other criteria including: improved respiration; greater lung capacity; lower cholesterol, improved levels of anxiety and significantly reduced stress.

These are interesting findings from a yoga therapy perspective.  This should influence the sequences and after-care offered to diabetic students and provide awareness to the potential of yoga for the broader population.  

Prevention Too

Indeed, practising yoga is associated with a lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes, according to a recent 2014 study at Lund University in Sweden.   In this study, researchers confirmed that resistance and muscle conditioning activity, such as yoga, is able to prevent diabetes, as well as improve glycemic control in their study of almost 100,000 women.

The study reasoned that aerobic exercise improves glycemic control in people with diabetes already, but that yoga can make a substantial difference in the prevention as well as treatment.  

While this study constrained the definition of yoga to the physical asana (poses) for these findings, the impact on the hormonal system, the endocrine system, of wider practices of yoga including meditation and breathing exercises, pranayama, shows even greater possibility.

How Much?

Healthy aging studies have further tested these hypotheses and corroborated the results, indicating statistically significant positive effects on biochemical variables responsible for the delay in ageing.

These studies tested sample populations between the ages of 35 and 55 with at least one hour and fifteen minutes of yoga daily, six days a week.  The practice was not continuously vigorous for the full hour and included cleansing practices (kriyas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation as well as at least 30 minutes of physical practice of asana.

Every little bit counts.  The Lund University study suggested that women who regularly did at least 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity and at least 60 minutes per week of muscle-conditioning exercise like yoga were a third as likely to develop diabetes as inactive women.

However, one and half hours of holistic practice and walking each day will deliver real physiological changes. Specific Yoga sequences on related conditions of obesity and diabetes feature in BKS Iyengar’s work.  These sequences show well-rounded practices with forward bends, twists, inversions, backbends and reclined Ujjayi pranayama.  The focus here is on balance: emotional; physiological; and spiritual.  Aerobic or cardio vascular priority is not enough.


  1. Grøntved, A., Pan, A., Mekary, R.A., Stampfer, M., Willett, W.C., Manson & J.E., Hu, F.B. ,“Muscle-Strengthening and Conditioning Activities and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Prospective Study in Two Cohorts of US Women”, PLOS Medicine, Published: January 14, 2014DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001587 (last accessed 27 Jan 2014)
  2. Iyengar, BKS, Yoga the Path to Holistic Health, Dorling Kindersley, 2008.
  3. Shenbagavalli, A. & Divya, K., “Effect of Yoga and Walking on the Selected Physiological, Bio-Chemical and Psychological Variables in Diabetic Patients” , Yoga Mimamsa, Vol. XLIII, NO. 1: 1-7 April, 2011
  4. Chatterjee, S., Mondal, S., Das, S.S., “Yoga and Health Aging: A Biochemical Study,” Yoga Mimamsa, Vol. XLIII No. 3: 184-195 Oct, 2011

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