Yoga in the office can ward off work stress, reduce risk of heart problems

LAS VEGAS — Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing approximately 655,000 people each year. Researchers say that stress is the top cause of heart disease, particularly work stress. Employees can reduce the risk of stress at the office — and consequently suffering from a potentially-deadly event, such as a heart attack — simply by doing yoga at work. 

The ancient spiritual practice of yoga focuses on strength, flexibility and breathing to boost physical and mental wellbeing. Scientists say yoga relieves stress better than traditional techniques, including massage.

Scientists pooled data from 15 clinical trials involving almost 700 healthcare workers. They examined the effects of yoga, massage therapy, progressive muscle relaxation and stretching. 

Participants were chosen at random to take up one of the exercise routines. Peers who carried on as normal acted as a control. Detailed analyses indicated only yoga and massage were more effective than no intervention, with the former being the best. 

“Work-related stress has been linked with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and other serious causes of morbidity. Our results suggest physical relaxation methods are helpful in reducing occupational stress. Yoga is particularly effective and can be delivered virtually – making it convenient for employers to offer distance options to promote worker health,” says lead author Dr. Michael Zhang, of the Southern Nevada Health District, in a statement.

It could help combat a major health problem that’s getting worse because of Covid-19. Healthcare staff are particularly vulnerable due to the emotional and physical strain, often leading to burnout. Millions of other people fear ending up jobless because of the economic crisis.

Previous research has identified occupational stress in a wide range of workers, ranging from nurses, doctors, technicians and therapists to personnel in various other disciplines. “It has been estimated that employees with work stress suffer on average a 50% excess risk of coronary heart disease. Long hours, overwork, shift work, inadequate staffing, emotional demands, administrative burdens and physical workplace hazards are all believed to be contributors,” the authors write.

“Moreover, stress and burnout have been associated with decreased job satisfaction, poor job performance and negative patient outcomes. Physical methods of relaxation, such as yoga and other movement-based activities, may be helpful in reducing stress in this population. Employers should consider implementing these methods into workplace wellness programs,” they add.

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The study is published in the Journal of Occupational Health.

SWNS writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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