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Can Yoga Fight Children’s Obesity Epidemic?

Can Yoga Fight Children’s Obesity Epidemic?

Do you know what one of the biggest threats to the developing and industrialized nations is? No, I’m not talking about terrorism; I’m talking about our children being overweight. Overweight children turn into overweight adults. This can cause our future adults to become unhealthy, unhappy, unproductive, and to die way before their time. Surprisingly, as many as 30% of children and 15% of preteens and teens are overweight.

Why are our children so overweight?

It’s actually a number of reasons. Factors for obesity include:

  • Emotional eating (a condition common in children of divorced parents)
  • Fat-full foods that are available everywhere and are relatively cheap
  • Lack of exercise
  • Stress either at home or at school
  • Increased time spent watching TV, playing video games or being on the computer
  • Parents with bad eating habits.

Health Risks associated with obesity are:

  • Low self esteem
  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes

As it is already known, diet and exercise are the solution to obesity for most people, children included. Although there are tools available for those who want make proper food choices, finding a physical activity that children want to do on a consistent basis is a very challenging task.

Overweight children usually hate to play team sports because they’re not always as good as other children. This causes them to feel self-conscious or embarrassed. They’re afraid the other children will tease them. So they often don’t try at all or quit much too soon, giving up in defeat.

But the idea of team sports doesn’t have to defeat them. Yoga offers children who are overweight or out of shape the opportunity to participate in a worthwhile, noncompetitive, aerobic activity in the privacy of their own home.

Now if you’re thinking, “no way, yoga is just for toning and flexibility”, you’ll be happy to know that there is finally proof that yoga does more than that. In fact, it’s been shown that yoga can help overweight children lose weight and avoid serious health problems.

"Who proved it?’ you may ask. Well, it was a researcher by the name of Sandra Benavides of the University of Texas. She focused specifically on Ashtanga yoga for her study, because of its reputation as an aerobic activity. Also known as the ‘power yoga’, she felt that Ashtanga yoga was the best choice to help children lose weight. In Ashtanga yoga, like other types of yoga, “asanas,” (postures) link with “pranyamas” (breathing techniques) to produce a workout that focuses on both strength and flexibility.

Scientific Study On Ashtanga Yoga: A Tool To Fight Obesity In Children?

To be eligible for the study, the children had to meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • Be between the ages of 8-15
  • Have an overweight relative with diabetes
  • Be overweight themselves
  • Be of Hispanic or African-American descent

How Did The Study Work?

After an introduction to yoga where the children received their own mat, participants had their weight, cholesterol, Body Mass Index (BMI, a measure of body fat calculated by weight and height) as well as their sugar and triglyceride levels checked.

For 12 weeks, the children practiced the asanas and pranyamas of a modified Ashtanga yoga sequence for 75 minutes, three times a week. The first sessions where not very strenuous so that fatigue or injury will be avoided. Every class was taught by the same instructor to guarantee consistency. As with other yoga types, each session ended with 5 to 10 minutes of deep relaxation meditation. This is all the children had to do; there were no special diets or other exercises.

The Good, the Bad and the… Other News

Well, part of the good news is that there is almost no ugly news. And there is also a lot more good news than bad news. The 14 children who completed the study lost on average 4.4 pounds, with one young lady losing 13 pounds!

The children started with an average weight of 134.6 lbs and an average BMI of 26,4 kg/m2. These numbers later changed to 130,2 lbs, with a new BMI to 25,6 kg/m2. That means that the children had an average of 4.4 lb weight loss. As mentioned, the largest weight loss was by a 13-year-old girl who lost 13 pounds.

There were other good results too, besides the weight loss. These included:

  • Abnormal lipid panels became more normal
  • Good cholesterol increased
  • Bad cholesterol decreased
  • Four children had higher levels of self-esteem upon completion (based on tests)
  • Some children had their anxiety lessened, and in those that didn’t, none had it raised.

There were however some negative results as well. Although no one’s anxiety increased as a result of this program, three children did have lower self-esteem. Dr. Sandra Benavides attributes this to the fact that some yoga poses can be difficult for beginners. When these children saw that they weren’t doing as well as their peers, their self-esteem was affected. However, yoga is not just about getting all the poses correct, it’s about practicing, learning the poses and accepting your limitations. For some this can be difficult to achieve in only 12 weeks.

Overall, yoga has a calming effect on the people who practice it. Other studies have shown yoga helps with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), low self-esteem, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


You want to give your child the best start you can in life, and being healthy is a huge part of that. Being overweight can last far into adulthood and can result in health problems like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can even lead to early death.

The importance of aerobic activity for both weight loss and overall good health cannot be exaggerated. That’s why the power yoga, Ashtanga yoga, might be a good option when it comes to aerobic activities that many can do.

2.2 pounds is the recommended amount of weight loss per month for children. More weight loss than that, especially the wrong way, could be dangerous according to reviews on best weight loss diets. Yoga, like other aerobic activities, might be an effective way for children to lose weight.

The benefits of yoga go far beyond losing weight, and can even extend to raising a child’s self-esteem and help lifting them out of a minor depression as well as getting their good and bad cholesterol levels and other levels in line with normality.

Losing 4.4 pounds in 12 weeks makes yoga every bit as good as any other weight loss program out there. Additionally, the children’s anxiety became less and their self-esteem increased. This proves that yoga is also good for mental, not just physical, health.

What Happens Now?

More studies involving more people need to be performed before the benefits of yoga become widely accepted. Yoga for Childred DVD features Asanas that are simple, safe and enjoyable physical postures for the children that enhance health & fitness. This is not only good for overweight children, but for any child, especially ones who don’t like other forms of exercise.

Tom Pikes

As a medical researcher at Washington University in St Louis, Tom Pikes of is passionate about helping people achieve a better health and well being, which is why his research focuses on the treatment of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. In his free time he develops a website where he regularly posts promotional coupons for Medifast diet, a medically designed program. : October 5, 2009, 11:44 am