Does Yoga Qualify as Exercise?

Most of us understand that yoga may help you relax and stretch your muscles, but is it difficult enough to be classified as moderate physical activity? If you’re trying to fit in enough exercise to meet your personal health and wellness goals or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other health groups’ recommendations of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, you might wonder if adding a yoga class to your routine would “count” toward your goal. (1) The answer is that it depends.

There are several yoga styles, including vinyasa, restorative, Hatha, and hot. Each needs a different level of physical effort. There’s a tremendous difference between a slow-paced restorative yoga session and a fast-paced vinyasa class where you’re swiftly moving from one demanding posture to the next.

According to Edward Laskowski, MD, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist and former co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, the latter may require enough exertion and raise your heart rate to qualify as moderate physical activity; the former may not.

“Classes that are more focused on mindfulness and restoration may not get your heart rate up as much,” adds Dr. Laskowski. Some sessions, he adds, are targeted at bringing folks to a higher heart zone rate, where you’re taxing and exercising the heart much more, which may be an aerobic workout.

Yoga Has the Potential to Increase Muscle Strength
Muscles may be built without the use of machines or free weights. Yoga has been shown to boost strength when performed on a regular basis. Many yoga postures, such as the handstand or the plank, are a type of bodyweight training that employs your own body weight as resistance. Certain stances and poses, simply by leveraging your body weight, will test and strengthen a muscle, according to Laskowski.

According to one research, women who practiced an hour of Ashtanga yoga twice a week for eight months were able to raise more weight with their legs than women who did not practice yoga. (2) Another study discovered that yoga enhances core and upper body strength and endurance; after six weeks of courses, participants were able to execute more curl-ups and push-ups. (3)

However, the muscles and muscular tone you acquire in a yoga session may differ in certain ways from the muscles and muscle tone you build through other forms of strength training, according to Laskowski. According to him, yoga is more about functional strength. Weight training, for example, may include isolating a certain muscle (such as the biceps) to strengthen it. In yoga, on the other hand, you work many muscle groups at the same time.

“In yoga, we use a lot of different joints and muscles, which is great because that’s what we do in our daily lives,” he explains.

Yoga as Aerobic Exercise?
What constitutes moderate and strenuous physical exercise differs from person to person since everyone has a different maximal heart rate based on age, health, and fitness level. (4) The American Heart Association advises a target heart rate of 50 to 70 percent of your maximal heart rate for moderate-intensity exercise and 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for intense exercise for healthy persons. (4)

A 20-year-old’s heart rate should be between 100 and 170 beats per minute to be in the moderate to vigorous exercise range, but a 60-year-old’s heart rate should be between 80 and 136 beats per minute to be in that range.

According to Laskowski, yoga is not necessarily an aerobic workout in the same category as walking, jogging, riding, or utilizing an elliptical machine. According to Laskowski, whether or not a yoga session will bring your heart rate in the desired zone to classify as moderate physical activity depends on the style of yoga and how fiercely you move through it. sessions that emphasize mindfulness and repair may not raise your heart rate as much as more athletic sessions meant to keep you moving, he says.

Research that looked at the heart rate in Ashtanga, Hatha, and gentle yoga discovered just a little increase in heart rate. Participants in ashtanga, the more energetic style of flow yoga, increased their heart rate by around 30 beats per minute, whereas Hatha and gentle yoga students increased their heart rate by just about 15 beats per minute. (5) Depending on your age and resting heart rate, that quantity of activity may qualify as moderate exercise for some, but not for others.

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That doesn’t make it any less worthwhile, according to Laskowski. After all, it’s still movement – it’s just less intense than anything that raises your heart rate more (just like jogging is less intense than running). “The heart is a muscle, and when you challenge it by increasing heart rate, it adapts and becomes stronger, so anything that does that is beneficial,” he explains.

How Many Calories Do You Burn When You Practice Yoga?

According to Sally Sherwin, an experienced yoga instructor at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Yoga in Ohio, “There are so many factors that determine how many calories you’ll burn to do yoga, including height, BMI, and age, among others.”

“The recommended range is 200 to 600 calories [burned] per hour, which is a wide range because there are so many different types of yoga,” she explains. In a restorative yoga session, you’ll likely be resting deeply and not burning many more calories. Sherwin adds that a robust class with plenty of movement will burn a lot more calories.

According to Harvard Medical School calorie calculations, a 125-pound person burns around 120 calories in a half hour of hatha yoga, and a 185-pound person burns about 178 calories in that half hour. Hatha yoga is a broad term that encompasses vinyasa or flow yoga. (6) For example, a 125-pound individual is expected to burn 135 calories in 30 minutes of walking (at a pace of 15 minutes per mile) and 210 calories riding a stationary bike at a moderate pace. (6)

Although Bikram yoga makes you sweat a lot more, the calorie count is around the same. A study conducted by a team of Colorado State University researchers (presented at the national conference of the American College of Sports Medicine) discovered that in a standard 90-minute class that goes through 26 poses in a room heated to 105 degrees and 40% humidity, women burned an average of 330 calories and men burned an average of 460 calories, which isn’t far from the calories burned walking briskly for the same amount of time. (7)

Which Gym Cardio Machine Is Best?

There is evidence that yoga can aid with weight loss indirectly through the lifestyle modifications it promotes. People who practiced Iyengar yoga (a slow-moving type of yoga that focuses on body alignment and posture) and lost weight after starting the practice were interviewed in a study conducted at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine). (8) Based on the interviews, the researchers identified many reasons that may have contributed to the Iyengar yogis’ weight loss: a move toward healthier eating, feeling supported by a culture that promoted good food and habits, and physical improvements such as muscle growth and toning.

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