Comparison of Aerobic Capacity and Current Levels of Physical Activity in Yoga Practitioners and Healthy Non-Exercising Individuals
Pooja M Akhtar*, Aryaa Bhusari and Murtaza Akhtar
Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, India
Submission: August 21, 2018;Published: September 28, 2018
*Corresponding author: Pooja M Akhtar, Assistant Professor, V. S. P. M’s College of Physiotherapy, Digdoh Hills, Hingna, Nagpur-440019, India; Tel: +91-9665038090, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
How to cite this article: Pooja M A, Aryaa B, Murtaza A. Comparison of Aerobic Capacity and Current Levels of Physical Activity in Yoga Practitioners and Healthy Non-Exercising Individuals. J Yoga & Physio. 2018; 6(3): 555686. DOI:10.19080/JYP.2018.06.555686
Background: The effects of Yoga to improve the cardio-respiratory endurance have demonstrated mixed results and is not considered as an aerobic activity by many. Young healthy individuals lack awareness about the traditional mode of inexpensive workout in the form of Yoga to maintain good health. They perceive themselves to be physically fit or tend to indulge into various expensive fitness programs. Thus, the present work was undertaken with an aim to study and compare the Aerobic capacity by indirect measurement (VO2 max) and current levels of Physical activity in yoga practitioners and healthy non-exercising individuals.
Methods and materials: It was an Observational Cross-sectional Study. Thirty yoga practitioners and thirty healthy non-exercising subjects underwent Queen’s step test to derive VO2max. The subjects were administered short International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) to record current levels of physical activity of current week. Comparison of VO2max. max values and IPAQ scores was done using parametric student’s t-test for the statistical change between the two groups.
Results: The mean values of VO2max of yoga practitioners was 46.52±6.36, as compared to 37.97±4.54 in non-exercising subjects which was statistical significant (p<0.001). IPAQ scores of yoga practitioners was 2974.5±1082.5 as compared to 1479.1±681 in non-exercising healthy individuals which was statistically significant. (p<0.001)
Conclusion: Aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and IPAQ scores are higher in yoga practitioners than non-exercising healthy individuals.
Aerobic capacity (VO2 max) is the maximal oxygen uptake and refers to the amount of oxygen the body is utilizes in one minute. Physical fitness depends mainly on Cardio-respiratory endurance of an individual. VO2 max (maximal oxygen uptake/ maximal aerobic power/ aerobic capacity) is widely accepted as the best measure of cardio-respiratory endurance and refers to the level of oxygen consumption beyond which no further increase in oxygen consumption occurs with further increase in the intensity of exercise and is expressed in ml/kg/minute. VO2 max is probably the best physiological indicator of a person’s capacity to continue strenous work . Determination of cardiorespiratory fitness in terms of direct measurement of maximum oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is restricted within the laboratory because of its exhausting and difficult experimental protocol .
There are various methods to measure VO2 max, namely Treadmill test, cycle ergometry, step test as direct methods which are accurate, time consuming, expensive and need trained technicians. The indirect methods are useful and effective which include charts and formulas of Astrand and physiological (e.g.,heart rate [HR]) and subjective (e.g., rating of perceived exertion [RPE]) variables . Queen’s step test is the simplest one and uses the prediction equations to calculate the VO2 max from recovery heart rate . In the present study, Queen’s College step test has been used for indirectly estimating the maximum oxygen uptake to measure the aerobic capacity.
Physical activity simply means movement of the body that uses energy. Walking, gardening, climbing the stairs, playing snooker or dancing are good examples of being active. For health benefits, physical activity should be moderate or vigorous intensity. There are many tools to measure physical activity. International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) is a validated tool to measure levels of physical activity. IPAQ short form is an instrument designed primarily for population surveillance of physical activity among adults .
Yoga is a good exercise for maintaining optimal health as it produces consistent physiological changes with sound scientific basis leading to the upliftment of various functions of body and mind. Several reports have been made with regards to its effects on Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Metabolic, Hormonal, Neural
systems and muscle strength and body composition . Apart
from asanas, the Physical practice of yoga, it also encompasses
other components such as conscious breathing, meditation,
lifestyle and diet changes, visualisation and use of sounds, among
many others . Since yoga is a slow-paced movement technique
separated by periods of static stretching, it was not considered an
aerobic activity by many. Thus, it is believed that yoga may not
be beneficial to improve the cardiorespiratory endurance capacity
. Moreover, the effects of yoga on cardiovascular health, such as
maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), resting heart rate and
resting BP have been investigated and demonstrate mixed results
Nowadays more individuals are interested in physical fitness
and it depends mainly upon cardiorespiratory endurance of an
individual. VO2 max is widely accepted as the best measure of
cardio-respiratory endurance and it has been internationally
accepted as the best parameter to evaluate Cardio-respiratory
fitness . Healthy non-exercising individuals perceive themselves
to be physically fit and active and lack awareness as well as time
to indulge into exercises and fitness programs. Yoga, being a
traditional mode of workout and require no instrumentation,
is a good form of exercise to practice and maintain good health.
The aerobic capacity of normal, healthy, sedentary, individuals
have been studied extensively using various protocols, by
direct and indirect measurements; but there is scarce literature
on comparative studies on Aerobic capacity, between yoga
practitioners and non-exercising young healthy subjects. Thus,
the present study was undertaken to compare the aerobic capacity
amongst yoga practitioners and young healthy subjects.
This study was carried out at a Tertiary Care academic
hospital in Central India, with an aim to study and compare the
aerobic capacity (VO2 max) using Queen’s College Step test and
current levels of physical activity using short form IPAQ in yoga
practitioners and healthy non-exercising subjects.
An Observational Study was carried out after obtaining
Ethical Clearance from Institutional Ethics Committee. Subjects
were aged between 18-30 years. The Yoga practitioners were
drawn from a “Yoga Life Centre” in Nagpur, practicing yoga for
more than one year, atleast 4 days a week for minimum duration
of 60 minutes per day. Healthy non-exercising students of V.S.P.M’s
College Of Physiotherapy, who were not involved in any type of
physical exercise training like gym, sports, athletics or formal
aerobic training, were included. Individuals with musculoskeletal
problems, spinal and abdominal surgery, pregnancy, any
lower limb injuries or recent hospitalization, any history of
cardiovascular, respiratory or systemic illness, presence of any
neurological problems or any psychiatric illness and those who
refused to participate in the study were excluded.
Yoga practitioners were performing Asanas (40 minutes),
Pranayama (10 minutes) and Shavasana (10minutes). The following
Asanas were practiced namely Pawanmuktasana, Naukasana,
Sarvangasana, Halasana, Setubandhasana, Bhujangasana,
Shalabhasana, Dhanurasana, Parvatasana, Matsyendrasana, Paschimotanasana,
Hastapadasana, Padmasana and Vajrasana. Anulom
–Vilom, Ujjayi, Bhramari and Bhastrika pranayama were also
practiced at the centre.
Procedure: At the time of recruitment of subjects, their basic
demographic data, details of their daily physical activity and yogic
exercise protocol were recorded. The primary study factor was
Queen’s step test in which baseline values of pulse rate and Rating
of Perceived Exertion on modified Borg’s scale was recorded.
Subject was made to perform Queen’s college step test by stepping
up and down on 16” stepper for 3minutes. Metronome was set to
cadence of 88 beats per minute for females (22 steps per minute)
and 96 beats per minute for males (24 steps per minute). Posttest
pulse rate was recorded for 15 seconds from 5th second after
completion of the test to the 20th second. Indirect estimation of
aerobic capacity (VO2max) was then calculated using the formula
• Men: VO2max(m/kg/min) =111.33 - 0.42 x HR (bpm)
• Women: VO2max(m/kg/min) =65.81 – 0.1847 x HR (bpm)
Short IPAQ, our secondary study factor, was used to record
current levels of physical activity of current week.
Data was analysed using EPI info software. Descriptive
statistics included demographic data including age, gender and
BMI. Analytical statistics included comparing VO2 max values and
IPAQ scores using parametric student’s t-test for the statistical
change between yoga practitioners and healthy non exercising
A total of 60 subjects, 30 practicing yoga and 30 non-exercising,
healthy individuals were enrolled in the study. Each group
had 21 females and 9 males. The mean age of the subjects for
yoga practitioners was 22.33±2.05 years and for non-exercising
individuals it was 22.3±2.08 years, with the range of 18-28
years. The mean BMI in yoga practitioners was 21.26±3.24 and
for healthy non-exercising individual was 21.06±0.8. These two
groups were comparable at baseline, as there was no statistically
significant difference in gender, age and BMI (Table 1).
Inference: The two groups were comparable at baseline, as there was no statistically significant difference in age and BMI.
Inference: These statistical findings are suggestive of better aerobic capacity and better current level of Physical activity score in Yoga practitioners as compared with healthy non-exercising subjects.
On comparison, the aerobic capacity as measured using
the formula for estimation of VO2 max was 46.52±6.36 in Yoga
practitioners and in normal non-exercising individuals it was
37.97±4.54, the p value being < 0.001(Statistically significant).
Likewise, the physical activity as measured by the IPAQ scores
in Yoga practitioner was 2974.5±1082.5 and in normal nonexercising
subjects it was 1479.1±681.4, the p value was <0.001 (Table 2).
These statistical findings are suggestive of better aerobic
capacity and better current level of Physical activity score in Yoga
practitioners as compared with healthy non-exercising subjects.
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice first described in Vedic
scriptures around 2500 BC which utilizes mental and physical
exercises to attain the union of individual self with the infinite
. It is designed to bring balance and health to the physical,
mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions of the individuals
. Studies have shown that yoga practice can lead to
improvements in the hand grip strength, muscular endurance,
flexibility and maximal oxygen uptake. In addition decrease in the
percentage body fat and increase in the FVC and FEV1 have also
been observed. Cardiorespiratory endurance in yoga individuals
have been estimated from the Astrand Rhyming or Harvard step
test , however data on comparison of aerobic capacity of yoga
versus normal individuals is sparse.
In the present study, Yoga practitioners had higher aerobic
capacity as measured by indirect method i.e. VO2 max, than
healthy non-exercising subjects. These results are quite consistent
with the reports of Balasubramanian et al.  which stated that
yogic practices improve physical performance in terms of aerobic
performance and cardiovascular endurance.
A study showed that the group practicing Yoga in Daily Life
system had better aerobic performance than controls performing
other aerobic physical activity for the same amount of time per
week . Thus, it may be concluded that in spite of low energy
expenditure during yoga sessions, yoga has a positive effect on
individuals’ aerobic performance. The results are consistent with
data from Chen et al.  who reported a positive influence of
Silver Yoga exercises on physical fitness (e.g., body composition,
cardiovascular-respiratory functions or body flexibility).
Our results are in line with the study of Vinayak P Doijad 
which indicated that the experimental group, namely yogasana
practice group had significantly improved VO2 max, when
compared to the control group.
Improved VO2 max after yogic exercises could be due to:
i. Increase in Oxygen Consumption by the muscles, which
in turn suggest increase in muscle blood flow. This may be
due to a generalized decrease in vascular tone resulting from
stimulation of parasympathetic activity during Yogic Training.
ii. Conversion of some of the Fast Twitch muscle fibers into
Slow Twitch muscle fibers during yogic training. Slow twitch
fibers have high aerobic power.
iii. Yoga postures (asanas) involve isometric contraction
which is known to increase skeletal muscle strength.
iv. Greater involvement of active muscle mass from different
parts of the body .
The short form of IPAQ was interviewer administered
questionnaire which provides a comparable scoring method for
the IPAQ long form. It is an instrument designed primarily for
the population surveillance of the physical activity among adults.
It has been developed and tested for use in the age range of 15-
69 years. IPAQ assess physical activity across a comprehensive
set of domains including leisure time physical activity, domestic
and gardening activities, work related physical activity and
transfer related physical activity. The IPAQ short form asks about
three specific types of activity undertaken in the four domains
introduced above. The specific types of activities that are assessed
are walking, moderate intensity activities and high intensity
Improved IPAQ scores in the yoga persons were observed
than the non-exercising individuals as yogic techniques are
known to improve one’s overall performance and work capacity
. Physical fitness not only refers to muscular strength and flexibility but also cardiorespiratory fitness . In adults, low
physical fitness (mainly cardiorespiratory fitness) seems to be a
stronger predictor of both cardiovascular and all-cause mortality
than any other well-established risk factors .
Sharma et al.  conducted a prospective controlled
study to explore the short-term impact of a comprehensive but
brief lifestyle intervention based on yoga, on subjective wellbeing
in normal and diseased subjects and reported significant
improvement in the subjective well-being scores of 77 subjects
within a period of 10 days as compared to controls. Therefore,
even a brief intervention can make an appreciable contribution to
primary prevention as well as management of lifestyle diseases.
In addition, research on the practice of yoga – a non-competitive,
physical exercise (asana) combined with breathing (pranayama)
and meditation techniques – indicates that practicing yoga
is associated with improved psychological well-being 
and positive self-esteem . This suggests that performing
yoga postures may increase bodily energetic resources and the
subjective sense of energy, and positively affects self-views .
Physical exercises and the physical components of yoga
practices have several similarities, but also important differences.
Evidence suggests that yoga interventions appear to be equal and/
or superior to exercise in most outcome measures. Emphasis on
breath regulation, mindfulness during practice, and importance
given to maintenance of postures are some of the elements which
differentiate yoga practices from physical exercises .
The limitation of the present study was inability to ascertain
and quantify the yogic compliance, however in situation of
beneficial effect of yoga exercises demonstrated by present study,
it is of no big consequence. No formal sample size calculation was
done as present study was an observational hypothesis generating
endeavor. No formal calculation of power of study was carried out.
IPAQ scores has an inherent weakness of recall bias which cannot
With the statistically positive results of yogic exercise
demonstrated by the present study, it is advisable to have a
methodologically sound study for hypothesis testing to be carried
out as future direction of research to obtain better grade of
evidence. Thus, we would like to appeal to the present youth to
adopt Yoga as a part of their fast-pacing lifestyle to gain benefits
not only in Flexibility and muscle strength but also improvement
in Cardio-vascular fitness.