All you sweaty Bettys and Bobs can do a happy dance in your swamp pants. A new independent study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) concluded that hot yoga poses no real threat to our earthly bodies, as in our heart rates and core body temperature don’t really change.
Sure we all complain about the dangers of hot yoga (typically 90 to 105 degrees) like heat exhaustion, dehydration, heat stroke and death, but there hasn’t really been a study on how hot yoga affects the body in comparison to a regular room temperature class (70 degrees-ish) until this one. And what the study found was that we (most of us) can stop worrying our little yoga heads about it.
“Anytime exercise is conducted in extreme temperatures, it’s important to remain hydrated and to watch signs for overheating,” said ACE Chief Science Officer Dr. Cedric Bryant. “However, this study showed that while higher sweat levels may cause participants to feel like they were working harder, heart rates showed they were actually at comparable levels whether in the regular or hot yoga class.”
The truth is, hot yoga classes just feel harder, and we perceive them as such because it’s all hot and humid and horrible and stuff.
The highest core body temperature recorded for an individual during the hot yoga class was 102.4°F, well below the zone in which fatigue and heat-related problems are imminent, which is at 104°F. [YD note: well below?] What may or may not come as a surprise is that individuals perceived the hot yoga practice to be more challenging than the non-heated class based on RPE despite the fact that physiologically the subjects weren’t working much harder based on their heart rates. During the hot yoga participants averaged 57 percent of maximal heart rate compared to an average of 56 percent of maximal heart rate during the non-heated experience. The intensity of each class—according to fitness industry guidelines—would be categorized as “light” exercise.
Phew! Well that’s a relief, isn’t it? Well, kinda. The study tested yogis in a 60-min hot yoga class with an average of a comparatively cool 92 degrees, hardly the sweltering 100+ temps of a 105 degree Bikram or 110 degree psycho-sultry subterranean city yoga (see also: NYC streets during last week’s heat wave 2013). And the participants were 20 “healthy, relatively fit males and females” ranging in age from 19 to 44, so no pre-existing conditions were considered and everyone outside this group, you’re on your own! Also a lot of hot yoga classes run longer than an hour and are most certainly not considered “light,” so there’s no conclusive evidence as to what happens to you after 60 mins, like spontaneous combustion or literally melting into a puddle of luon and coco water.
You know what this also means? And you may hate us for saying it, but hot yoga doesn’t really equal a better “workout.” We know, it feels good on your muscles and stuff, and you perspiration sweathearts love that shedding of waters, the throbbing of your pulse in the back of your eyeballs and the color of your face redder than a beet smoothie so go on with your hot yoga selves.
Just stay hydrated, folks!
“Yoga has significant benefits – from muscular strength and endurance to flexibility and balance, in addition to its mind-body value,” said Bryant. “For those looking to participate in hot yoga of any kind, it’s important to properly hydrate before, during, and after class while also monitoring for early signs or symptoms of heat intolerance (e.g., headache, muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, or fatigue).”
We await the longterm study on who gets higher and hallucinates faster, seekers in a sweat lodge or yogis in headstand in 100 degree heat. The camel is our spirit animal!
image via guardian.co.uk