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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(7):1400

Randomized trials have studied the impact of mind-body training such as yoga on specific health conditions. No U.S. study, however, has used validated instruments to assess the effect of mind-body training on health-related quality of life, or to evaluate these training programs in a community setting. Lee and colleagues sought to determine the impact of a community-based yoga program on health-related quality of life in almost 200 yoga participants.

The study targeted new enrollees to yoga classes in eight community-based centers in the New York City area. Participants followed the usual training program at each center: typically two or three one-hour classes per week. On enrollment in the study, each participant completed a health-related quality of life questionnaire incorporating assessment instruments to measure general health, depression, anxiety, and self-efficacy. The primary outcome was the mental health domain of the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36, which was included in the questionnaire. After three months, participants completed follow-up surveys.

Most of the 194 participants who returned the baseline questionnaire were women. Scores in the study group were worse than in the general community in seven of the eight survey domains. Participants reported more depression and anxiety, but also higher self-efficacy. The follow-up survey was completed by 171 participants, and statistically significant improvements were noted in all survey domains, including mental health. Less depression and anxiety and greater self-efficacy were reported, on average, than at baseline. Those who improved the most tended to be younger, to have reported greater depression at baseline, or to have a history of hypertension. Five participants reported exercise-related musculoskeletal injuries, but only one of these discontinued training.

The authors conclude that quality of life related to physical, emotional, and social functioning and mental health can be improved for some persons after three months of a community-based mind-body training program. They suggest that while the study participants initially reported more anxiety and depression than community norms, their higher self-efficacy scores indicate that persons who choose alternative medicine tend to regard health as subject to individual control. Stress reduction and social support may be mediators of the improvements observed.

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