The Danger of Heated Workouts

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 14:19

Yoga... Love it. I have created extremely successful yoga programs like Yoga Inferno and I'm even adding yoga to the JM #MyFitness app in the next couple of months.  Why am I telling you this?  Because I am about to go off on hot yoga and I want to be clear that it's the hot part that bothers me. Not the yoga part. In fact, it's all heated workouts in general. Why are people partaking in these trends? Because they are trendy?

Just because something becomes trendy doesn’t mean it’s good for you. In fact, it often indicates the opposite. Trends inherently stray from the norm and when it comes to fitness and nutrition this can be a dangerous thing. Of course, when there is new science to justify a change in the way exercises are done (like squatting below parallel provided you have the mobility to do so) or moving to HIIT training from traditional cardio for accelerated results because numerous clinical studies have proven the benefits, that’s ok. But, trends for the sake of trends are almost always a non-starter. Things like hot yoga and now (unfortunately) hot Pilates are not founded in science, quite the contrary.

The development of yoga began roughly 5000 years ago and in that time it established proven norms. And in all 5 millennia never once did anyone suggest it be done in 115 degree heat… until now.

And what are the supposed benefits this trend espouses? Increased calorie burn and detoxification – both of which are totally untrue. Let’s address each one at a time.

The case hot yoga aficionados make for detoxification is the profuse sweating that occurs during hot yoga. Sweating, however, is your body’s way of cooling itself. That is all. Only 1% of the toxins that leave our bodies are excreted through our sweat glands. The main role of sweating is to regulate our body temperature; it’s our natural cooling system. Period.

Conversely, the main organs responsible for excreting waste are actually the gastrointestinal tract, liver, kidneys, immune systems and lungs – NOT our sweat glands. And when we are dehydrated these organs can’t function properly making hot yoga utterly counterintuitive to our bodies natural detoxification process.

As for calorie burn, the hot yogi’s argument is that your heart rate is elevated and therefore you are burning more calories. That said, this is called a false positive. Your heart rate is elevated because it’s working harder trying to pump blood to the skin in order to cool you down. However, for exercise to be effective at calorie burning and improved athletic performance, increased heart rate is only relevant if it’s generated through effort based intensity – not duress from environmental stress like extreme heat. If that was the case, then everyone who lived in hot climates 24/7 would be naturally fit – which is absurd.

And, like “detoxing”, hot yoga inhibits your ability to get the best workout and subsequently the best results because it compromises your ability to train harder. The excessive sweating dehydrates you, which can make you weak, dizzy, fatigued, compromises your metabolic function, and imbalances your electrolytes…but boy are you sweating.

On the flip side, doing yoga in a room that is a more regulated with moderate temperatures. You’re able to work at a much higher intensity. Even though you may not be sweating as much you’re still burning far more calories than the hot yoga class. And, because you are able to train harder, you are forcing your body to adapt to the exercise stress at a quicker rate – thereby making you fitter faster.

So, don’t skip the yoga class or the Pilates workout, just be sure to train in a temperate environment that allows you to generate exercise induced heat from the inside out, not the outside in!