Today millions pack fitness
studios seeking the mind-body benefits of yoga, including
increased flexibility, strength, balance and muscle
tone. But is yoga also a good calorie-burning workout?
In an exclusive study, the American Council on Exercise
(ACE), America's nonprofit fitness advocate, examined
the aerobic benefits and calorie expenditure of Hatha
yoga, the most beginner-friendly and widespread practice.
Lead researchers Dawn Boehde and
John Porcari, Ph.D., FACSM, from the University of
Wisconsin-La Crosse recruited 34 healthy but sedentary
women (average age of 33) for the study. Before beginning
the study, participants were given the same series
of tests evaluating their flexibility, balance, aerobic
fitness level and muscular strength and endurance.
The subjects where divided into two
groups: a yoga group and a non-yoga control group.
The yoga group participated in 55-minute Hatha yoga
classes three times a week during the eight-week study
period while the non-yoga group was barred from any
form of exercise.
The study concluded that while the
yoga group showed numerous improvements in strength
and endurance as well as improved balance and flexibility,
they did not burn a significant amount of calories.
In fact, one 50-minute session of Hatha yoga burns
just 144 calories, similar to a slow walk.
"Yoga is designed to relax the body and help improve
musculoskeletal fitness. If you attempt to incorporate
calorie-burning elements in a yoga session you may
compromise the essential purpose and beneficial effects
of the practice," said Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, chief
exercise physiologist for ACE. "While the ACE study
shows that a Hatha yoga session burns a relatively
small amount of calories, yoga is still a valuable
addition to any exercise routine offering the essential
elements of flexibility, balance and relaxation; factors
often neglected in traditional workouts."
Yoga group participants did show
the following improvements:
- Yoga participants' total body flexibility
improved by 13 percent, with significant results in
shoulder and trunk flexibility
- Muscular fitness also improved
in the yoga group enabling them to do an average of
six more push-ups and 14 more curl-ups
- Yoga participants experienced
a 17-second increase in their one-legged stand time.
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