UMass Lowell Researchers Study Whether Yoga May Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes

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The practice of yoga has withstood the test of time with generations turning to it for spiritual, mental and health benefits. Now, UMass Lowell public health Associate Professor Herpreet Thind, among a group of researchers, is investigating whether the wellness practice can be used to help manage Type 2 diabetes.

The National Institutes of Health-funded research comes as a growing number of people are diagnosed with diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the condition affects 38 million Americans—approximately 90% to 95% of whom have Type 2 diabetes. People with the disease can suffer from high blood sugar levels due to the body’s inability to effectively process insulin. If not managed, the disease can increase the risk of heart disease, neuropathy, kidney damage, eye disease and dental problems.

Thind and her fellow researchers are trying to determine whether yoga can help regulate stress hormones and thereby control blood sugar levels.

“We’re comparing health improvements in each of two groups and evaluating if they are motivated enough to form a habit to continue the yoga program and standard exercises,” said Thind. “Similar to exercise, yoga may be an effective way to manage blood sugar levels along with diet, weight management and medications.”

Conducted at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the study tracks nearly 100 adults with Type 2 diabetes. Participants are divided into two groups—those who take part in a 12-week yoga program and those who do standard exercises such as brisk walking or working out at a gym.

Master of public health graduate Cosette Scott ’24 and Meilani Chen ’24, who earned a bachelor’s degree in public health earlier this spring, served as research assistants on the project. Their responsibilities included eligibility screening, data collection, and conducting follow-up visits.

“Learning about the potential benefits of yoga in managing diabetes was fascinating, and it reinforced my interest in exploring different approaches to health interventions,” said Chen. “I gained valuable insight into study design, data analysis and effective communication of research findings.”

Scott said involvement in the project enriched her skills.

“My work taught me critical thinking skills, to pay better attention to detail and strengthened my communication—which will be extremely valuable in my future career as an epidemiologist,” she said.

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