Q. I do Pilates and yoga regularly. Will they help me build up my muscles?

A. Yes. If done under proper instruction, exercises in which you support or lift your own body weight, such as a plank in yoga class or side kicks in Pilates, can help with muscle building. And other research, including an analysis from the influential National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), confirms that yoga has other health benefits, too.

In a small study from India, people who performed 24 rounds of the yoga sequence “sun salutation” six days per week boosted their upper-body strength significantly after 24 weeks. And 60 minutes of vigorous Ashtanga yoga, including warm-up and cool down, twice per week for eight months increased women’s leg strength in a small University of Oklahoma study. Research suggests that Pilates can build lower-body and core strength.

Besides muscle building, yoga has other benefits, according to the recent analysis of data from the NHIS survey. It found that nearly two-thirds of yoga practitioners said they were motivated to exercise more, 40 percent that ate better, and 80 percent they felt less stressed and had better emotional health. They also they cut back on alcohol and cigarettes. 

The NHIS is an annual study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in which thousands of Americans are interviewed about their health- and illness-related experiences. The survey results are based on data from 34,525 adults age 18 and older.

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