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There’s plenty of ways to get hot and sweaty. And some are more fun than others of course. But does hot yoga burn enough calories to help you lose weight? Or will it just make you uncomfortable and red faced?
You’re dripping in perspiration, your heart rate is chugging along at the pace of a disco house track and your breathing is heavy.
When you combine exercise and heat you force your body to burn more calories. Your metabolism increases… and you’re really hoping that’ll mean more fat loss.
But does hot Yoga really burn calories?
Or will it leave you in a hot heap gasping for breath?
Let’s take a look…
What Is Hot Yoga?
Bikram yoga, or ‘hot Yoga’ is a kind of class that combines rhythmical stability movements and stretches (referred to as ‘postures’) within a hot environment.
It’s delivered in accredited and certified studios around the world, and promises that by using the 20 odd posing and breathing activities that you’ll achieve head-to-toe fitness.
Hot Yoga is said to be more intense than the more conventional styles of Yoga, mostly because working out in a hot room is pretty damn tough.
We’re talking 100 F plus… and with a humidity of around 40%.
It’s like working out in the jungle or on the Saharan planes. Not in the luxury penthouse studio of some health-conscious Yogi.
In fact, it’s so warm in one of these Yoga classes that you’ll start sweating the minute you walk in the humid studio room, let alone once you start trying to get yourself into lengthy, controlled and muscle-trembling positions.
Hot Yoga might even look easy from a distance.
But the impact on your muscles and heart rate can definitely catch you by surprise; especially if you’ve never tried it before.
Why does heat make exercise harder?
Hot Yoga is definitely harder than the more traditional, regular class you see at the local Y.
There’s just something about heat that makes your workout that little bit (well, actually a lot) more strenuous.
If you’ve ever gone for a run on a sunny day or tried to walk on Miami beach in the middle of summer you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
That’s because the physiology of exercise changes in hot conditions:
- Mechanical strain increases – core body temperature, blood volume decreases and heart rate increases.
- Skin temperature goes up – you sweat and can dehydrate faster
- Increased release of epinephrine – and other fight or flight hormones
- Elevated metabolic rate – increased hormonal changes helps burn calories
What are the benefits of hot Yoga?
So what exactly does this sweat patch-causing workout routine offer?
There’s a pretty strong link between regularly taking part in hot activities and lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Hot therapy (whether that’s a hot bath or a hot Yoga class) has been associated with better sports performance, muscle recovery and even greater muscle growth too.
But perhaps the best link between heat and health comes from Finnish research showing that hitting saunas and similar types of temperature activities help you live longer than those that don’t.
- Improved circulation and heart health
- Boosts your immune system
- May help breathing problems
- Better flexibility
- Said to remove toxins (although to be honest this is a bit of a bullsh*tty term – basically means that it improves lymphatic flow)
- Burns calories
Hot Yoga has also been found to improve balance, strength and motor control. But then again, so has regular Yoga.
Is Hot Yoga the Key to Burning Calories and Losing Weight?
The key to fat loss is creating a sustainable calorie deficit. Burn off more calories than you put in your body and you’ll tap into stored fat as an energy reserve.
Losing excess fat is really down to two things:
- Restricting calorie intake
- Boosting calorie burn through exercise and physical activity
If you’re following a diet, the next part of the fat loss puzzle is to burn as many calories as possible through exercise.
Once you’ve achieved a deficit you can speed up fat loss by making sure you eat enough protein, drink enough water and use a fat burner supplement that contains metabolism optimizing nutrients.
There’s not a lot of research out there, but many teachers of hot Yoga suggest that you can melt through as many as 1,000 calories in a 90 minute session.
Although they might be overstating it slightly…
Hot Yoga might not actually burn as many calories as you’ve been told
The problem with a lot of the ‘research’ on hot Yoga and calories is that it’s not been conducted in a lab using proper equipment.
Instead, it’s mostly reported by estimates by participants or unreliable,commercial calorie counter machines.
And while some hot Yoga enthusiasts have reported burning over 1,000 calories per workout, the very few lab studies available show this number might actually be more like 350-500 calories per 90 minute block.
That’s still a decent number of calories.
But you’d burn just as many going for a steady walk or dancing in the club to your favorite tracks.
Hot Yoga might not be safe for everyone
If you don’t already know, 100 F is very, very hot.
It’s not face melting, but it’s not far off.
You’ll find it much easier to stretch that little bit too far when your muscles are warm. And you’re at a slightly higher risk of injury without proper supervision from an instructor.
Hot yoga isn’t safe for anyone with cardiovascular illness (high blood pressure, heart failure etc.) or medications that effect your heart rate such as beta blockers.
If you’re pregnant, you probably want to give hot Yoga a miss too as prolonged heat combined with a hormone called relaxin (it increases during pregnancy to help make your joints more supple) could increase injuries.
Elderly adults need to exercise caution too as sweat gland function decreases and makes cooling of the skin that much harder.
And lastly, if you’re on your period you need to be careful taking part in hot Yoga. Mostly because your metabolic rate and core body temperature are already elevated by as much as 1 degree Celsius… and that’s before you even set foot in the studio.
Summary – Does Hot Yoga Burn Calories?
Hot Yoga uses humid and hot conditions combined with various postures to improve health.
It’s been claimed to burn calories as high as 1,000 per 90 minute workout.
And while research studies have shown that in reality, you probably only burn half this amount, it still contributes toward your calorie deficit.