Yoga Better than Walking for Lowering Anxiety and Depression
Scientists, for the first time, have found a connection between Yoga and mood using brain imaging. Compared to walking, study participants who practiced Yoga were found to have higher levels of the brain chemical GABA or gamma-aminobutyric acid, a neurotransmittor in the brain linked to mood.
Enhancing GABA receptors in the body is the target of anti-anxiety and depression medications prescribed by physicians. Exercise also reduces anxiety, but the newest study found that Yoga is superior to walking for boosting GABA levels in the brain and reducing anxiety levels.
Brain Images Confirm Yoga Better than Walking for Anxiety and Depression
The researchers compared study participants who walked for exercise to a group assigned to Yoga practice over a period of twelve weeks. Each group exercised three times a week. Magnetic resonance spectroscopic (MRS) imaging of the brain measured GABA levels before and after to compare the two groups.
"Over time, positive changes in these reports were associated with climbing GABA levels," said lead author Chris Streeter, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and neurology at Boston University School of Medicine. The group practicing Yoga consistently reported better mood compared to the exercise group.
Yoga reduced anxiety and lowered depression, reported by the Yoga group. Based on imaging studies of the brain, the researchers noted increased levels of GABA, a brain chemical that reduces anxiety and boosts mood. Dr. Streeter suggests Yoga should be considered as a treatment for mental disorders, pending further studies.
The Journal of Complementery and Alternative Medicine: doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0007