July 8 (UPI) -- Yoga helps lower work-related stress, an analysis published Thursday by the Journal of Occupational Health found.
Based on data from 15 studies that included 688 participants in nine countries, the discipline, which originated in India and combines exercise, stretching, regulated breathing and meditation, "significantly" reduced stress and improved health among healthcare workers, the researchers said.
Healthcare workers who engaged in "yoga or a yoga-like exercise" responded more positively on questionnaires designed to assess stress, physical and emotional burnout and physical and mental health compared with their colleagues who did not engage in these exercise programs.
Employers should consider implementing these methods into workplace wellness programs to reduce stress levels and limit burnout among staff, the researchers said.
"It's pretty well-known even by the general public that yoga is a safe and effective way of reducing stress, improving mood and it is also a good physical exercise," study co-author Dr. Michael Zhang told UPI in an email.
"For busy professionals such as healthcare workers, yoga has a number of practical benefits," said Zhang, a physician with the Southern Nevada Health District in Las Vegas.
Of the participants in the included studies, 341 engaged in some form of yoga or yoga-related program, including 167 who regularly received massage therapy, 15 who practiced progressive muscle relaxation and 20 who routinely performed stretching exercises, Zhang and his colleagues said.
In all the studies, physical relaxation methods, particularly yoga, reduced measures of occupational stress compared with no intervention.
However, only yoga and massage therapy were "significantly" more effective than no intervention, with yoga being the best method, they said.
Work-related stress has been linked with an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression and other serious health problems.
The results of this study suggest that physical relaxation methods are helpful in reducing this stress, the researchers said.
"[People need] to appreciate the impact of work-related stress and the importance of stress management, regardless of their profession, [though] healthcare workers are particularly vulnerable given the [COVID-19 pandemic]," Zhang said.
"Protecting worker health, including mental health, should be a priority for both employers and employees, and steps should be taken to recognize signs of work stress and mitigate their effects," he said.