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SHORT COMMUNICATION  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 172-173
Comparison of yoga versus physical exercise on executive function, attention, and working memory in adolescent schoolchildren: A randomized controlled trial


1 Division of Yoga and Life Sciences, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
2 Centre for Academic Research, HCG Foundation, Healthcare Global Enterprises Ltd., Bengaluru, Karnataka, India

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Date of Web Publication6-May-2019
 

   Abstract 


Purpose: Executive function, attention, and memory are an important indicator of cognitive health in children. In this study, we analyze the effect of yoga and physical exercise on executive functioning, attention, and memory. Methods: In this prospective two-armed randomized controlled trial, around 802 students from ten schools across four districts were randomized to receive daily 1 h yoga training (n = 411) or physical exercise (n = 391) for 2 months. Executive function, attention, and memory were studied using Trail Making Test (TMT). Yoga (n = 377) and physical exercise (n = 371) students contributed data to the analyses. The data were analyzed using intention-to-treat approach using Student's t-test. Results: There was a significant increase in numerical TMT (TMTN) values within yoga (t = −2.17; P < 0.03) and physical activity (PA) (t = −3.37; P < 0.001) groups following interventional period. However, there was no significant change in TMTN between yoga and PA groups (t = 0.44; P = 0.66). There was a significant increase in alphabetical TMT (TMTA) values within yoga (t = 6.21; P < 0.00) and PA groups (t = 1.19; P < 0.234) following interventional period. However, there was no significant change in TMTA between yoga and PA groups (t = 3.46; P = 0.001). Conclusion: The results suggest that yoga improves executive function, attention, and working memory as effectively as physical exercise intervention in adolescent schoolchildren.

Keywords: Adolescents, attention, executive function, physical exercise, yoga

How to cite this article:
Vhavle SP, Rao RM, Manjunath N K. Comparison of yoga versus physical exercise on executive function, attention, and working memory in adolescent schoolchildren: A randomized controlled trial. Int J Yoga 2019;12:172-3

How to cite this URL:
Vhavle SP, Rao RM, Manjunath N K. Comparison of yoga versus physical exercise on executive function, attention, and working memory in adolescent schoolchildren: A randomized controlled trial. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 May 27];12:172-3. Available from: http://www.ijoy.org.in/text.asp?2019/12/2/172/257632



   Introduction Top


Executive function, attention, and memory are an important indicator of cognitive health in children. Preliminary studies have shown yoga to improve measures of attention and cognition in a small sample of schoolchildren. Yoga is a form of mind–body fitness that involves a combination of muscular activity and an internally directed mindful focus on awareness of the self, breath, and energy.[1] It aims at developing an integrated personality, where the growth of physical, mental, social, and spiritual planes is equally focused.[2] The advantage of yoga is that its benefits are available to students of all school-age groups. An integrated approach to yoga is necessary for the holistic development of memory,[3] attention, executive functioning, and cognitive processing speed.[4] Few studies that have directly compared the effects of participating in school-based yoga versus physical education have generally found positive effects of yoga.[5] Few studies have found that yoga is as effective as physical activity (PA) in improving cognitive performance and emotional and behavioral functioning. However, there are no studies that have compared yoga to a structured PA program in a large-scale student population. In this study, we have analyzed the effects of a structured yoga program with structured physical therapy on the measures of attention, information processing, mental speed, and working memory in adolescent high schoolchildren. Our study differs from the other related studies for the fact that our sample size is comparatively huge and the risk of bias due to smaller sample size is low.

In this prospective two-armed randomized controlled trial, around 802 students from ten schools across four districts were randomized to receive daily 1 h yoga training (n = 411) or physical exercise (n = 391) for 2 months. Executive function, attention, and memory were studied using Trail Making Test (TMT). Yoga (n = 377) and physical exercise (n = 371) students contributed data to the analyses. The data were analyzed using intention-to-treat approach using Student's t-test.


   Results Top


There was a significant increase in numerical TMT (TMTN) values within yoga (t = −2.17; P < 0.03) and PA (t = −3.37; P < 0.001) groups following interventional period. However, there was no significant change in TMTN between yoga and PA groups (t = 0.44; P = 0.66). There was a significant increase in alphabetical TMT (TMTA) values within yoga group (t = 6.21; P < 0.00) but not in the PA group (t = 1.19; P < 0.234) following interventional period [Table 1]. However, there was a significant change in TMTA between yoga and PA groups (t = 3.46; P = 0.001).
Table 1: Mean and standard deviation of numerical Trail Making Test and alphabetical Trail Making Test for yoga and physical activity groups

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The results suggest that yoga improves executive function, attention, and working memory as effectively as physical exercise intervention in adolescent schoolchildren.


   Discussion Top


Result from this two-armed randomized controlled trial is suggestive of equivalence between yoga practices and physical exercises with respect to visual scanning and cognitive processing and speed.[6] However, there was a significant improvement in executive functioning with yoga intervention compared to exercise. This study results differ from those of studies on yoga that have used small study populations.[4],[7] Many other studies have found yoga practices to be more effective than physical exercises in many physiological functions such as in muscle control, balance, increased self-confidence, and other measures that are not studied in this trial.[8],[9]


   Methods Top


While physical exercises may need large play area and close supervision to prevent injuries, yoga practices could be carried out in a confined area, with little support and supervision once the principles are understood. Furthermore, it is possible for students with disability (especially, visual) to practice yoga and gain confidence and stability in gait and other activities.[10] Further, for the elderly, yoga is a boon because sitting and lying down asanas could be improvised to confer the same benefits as physical exercises.


   Conclusion Top


On the whole, though there are equal benefits of yoga and physical exercises seen in this study, the advantages of performing yoga cannot be overlooked.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
   References Top

1.
Woodyard C. Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. Int J Yoga 2011;4:49-54.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
2.
Tikhe SG, Nagendra HR, Tripathi N. Ancient science of yogic life for academic excellence in university students. Anc Sci Life 2012;31:80-3.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Telles S, Hanumanthaiah B, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR. Improvement in static motor performance following yogic training of school children. Percept Mot Skills 1993;76:1264-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Das M, Deepeshwar S, Subramanya P, Manjunath NK. Influence of yoga-based personality development program on psychomotor performance and self-efficacy in school children. Front Pediatr 2016;4:62.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Noggle JJ, Steiner NJ, Minami T, Khalsa SB. Benefits of yoga for psychosocial well-being in a US high school curriculum: A preliminary randomized controlled trial. J Dev Behav Pediatr 2012;33:193-201.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Tombaugh TN. Trail making test A and B: Normative data stratified by age and education. Arch Clin Neuropsychol 2004;19:203-14.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Purohit SP, Pradhan B. Effect of yoga program on executive functions of adolescents dwelling in an orphan home: A randomized controlled study. J Tradit Complement Med 2017;7:99-105.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Pise V, Pradhan B, Gharote M. Effect of yoga practices on psycho-motor abilities among intellectually disabled children. J Exerc Rehabil 2018;14:581-5.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
Rathi SS, Raghuaram N, Tekur P, Joshi RR, Ramarao NH. Development and validation of integrated yoga module for obesity in adolescents. Int J Yoga 2018;11:231-8.  Back to cited text no. 9
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
10.
Telles S, Naveen KV. Yoga for rehabilitation: An overview. Indian J Med Sci 1997;51:123-7.  Back to cited text no. 10
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  

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Correspondence Address:
Raghavendra Mohan Rao
Centre for Academic Research, HCG Foundation, Healthcare Global Enterprises Ltd., #8, P Kalinga Rao Rd, Sampangiramanagara, Bengaluru - 560 027, Karnataka
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijoy.IJOY_61_18

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