Just 20 minutes of Hatha yoga worked better than aerobic exercise to boost reaction times and accuracy on cognitive tasks, including memory, in a study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The 30 undergraduate women participants performed a series of seated, standing and supine yoga postures that ended with a meditative posture and deep breathing, the researchers reported. The participants were given cognitive tests immediately after their yoga session. The aerobic component of the study involved walking or jogging on a treadmill for 20 minutes with a goal of attaining 60 to 70 percent of each participant’s maximum heart rate. The researchers reported that the improvement on the cognitive tasks was unexpectedly greater after the yoga session than after the aerobic exercise. Study leader Neha Gothe said that following yoga practice, the study participants were apparently better able to focus their mental resources, process information quickly and more accurately and also learn, hold and update pieces of information more effectively than after the aerobic exercise. She also reported observing similar promising findings among older adults. The study was published in the May 2013, issue of the Journal of Physical Activity & Health.
Neha Gothe et al, “The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function”, Journal of Physical Activity & Health, May 2013.