Hot yoga is one of the latest trends in the world of exercise.
Traditional yoga, the kind you don’t do in a 105-degree room, has been around for a while. Experts say that it originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. It’s still popular today, and for good reason. Practicing yoga has real health benefits like increasing flexibility, managing high blood pressure, and improving cardiovascular (heart) health . But hot yoga may be edging its predecessor up the popularity ladder because of something even better, its link to burning more calories through increased metabolism.
The idea behind hot yoga is simple, but it may seem crazy to some. Hot yoga involves performing a set sequence in a 105 degree Fahrenheit studio with a 40% humidity rate. It’s an intense workout that involves a lot of sweating, and it scares off a lot of aspiring yogis. The founder of the practice maintains that high heat helps increase blood flow, warm muscles for a deeper stretch, and helps the lymphatic system release toxins through sweat. It sounds incredible, but keep in mind that some of these claims have not yet been validated by research.
But it turns out there’s a method to the madness: For those who can handle the heat, additional health benefits could be in store. Heat affects your metabolism during exercise ; Prolonged exposure to heat can speed up your metabolic rate. So while hot yoga might seem like a crazy fad, it might actually be on to something .
Let’s explore this topic a bit more. First of all, what exactly do the terms “metabolism” and “metabolic rate” refer to?
What is metabolic rate?
Metabolism is the biochemical process your body uses to provide energy: It takes what you eat and drink, combines the calories from those foods and liquids with oxygen, and creates the energy needed to fuel your body. Metabolism is driven by two main factors: body composition and how active you are.
Metabolic rate takes the concept of metabolism one step further. Your metabolic rate is determined by the number of calories your body needs to complete these bodily functions , important things like repairing cells, breathing, and keeping your blood circulating.
As you can guess, this means that your metabolism is always working. It always runs in the background, performing these essential functions. Therefore, the faster your metabolism runs, the more calories you need to fuel your body and keep it running optimally.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) refers to the minimum amount of calories and energy needed for your body to carry out basic cellular functions and support the maintenance of your lean body mass. There are certain factors that can affect your metabolic rate, and the main driver of your metabolic rate is body composition. If you have more muscle, you will burn more calories. Your muscles need energy to help them stay healthy, which means your body requires more fuel to maintain muscle mass. So even when you’re not doing anything, your body will be burning calories.
Another way to increase caloric expenditure is through physical activity. Physical activity places greater demands on the muscles, causing them to require additional energy sources to keep them functioning optimally. Think of your body like a car: the harder you press the gas pedal on your car, the more gas it needs. Likewise, you can help determine how quickly your metabolism “leads” with physical activity.
How can you change your metabolic rate?
Everyone has a different metabolic rate . Remember, BMR refers to the minimum number of calories needed for your body to perform necessary functions, such as repairing cells and building new ones. Since all bodies are different in shape, size, and composition, some people simply have a lower or higher metabolic rate than their neighbor. Genetics also play a role, and that is something that cannot be changed.
But you can take some steps to help boost your metabolism.
A common method is through activity. Remember, if you have more muscle, you will burn more calories, even while resting. Therefore, building muscle through resistance training has a huge effect on your metabolic rate. Another way to burn calories throughout the day and temporarily boost your metabolism is through aerobic exercise. Research has shown that HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which incorporates cardio and resistance exercises, is a great way to increase your heart rate and your metabolism by increasing excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).
EPOC is the amount of oxygen needed to restore the body back to normal resting metabolic function. Therefore, the higher the demand on the body, the longer it takes to return to normal, resulting in a higher metabolic rate as the body works to return to its resting state. If you are looking for more information on HIIT training and how it can improve your metabolic rate and body composition, check out this article .
Physical activity, both adding muscle mass (through resistance training) and keeping up with consistent cardio workouts, is just one of the ways you can help speed up your metabolism.
Another way is through exposure to heat. Let’s delve into this idea.
This is how heat affects BMR
While gender, height, and age influence BMR, these are factors that we cannot control or change. But by controlling your body temperature, you can increase the calories your body burns.
Both internal and external temperatures influence your metabolic rate . The chemical reactions that take place in your body and make up your metabolism occur faster if the temperature is higher, as the body works harder to restore its normal temperature balance. For example, if you have a fever, your BMR will predictably jump to a much higher rate than normal to increase the rate of cellular metabolic reactions aimed at fighting that fever and getting your body back to a healthy state.
However, when it comes to external temperature, it is only prolonged exposure to heat that raises your BMR significantly. A brief exposure to heat is not enough to do much to your metabolism. To really raise BMR, a longer exposure to heat is necessary. This is somewhat easier to change than certain genetic or biological factors, such as age, height, or gender. And that’s why so many have turned to hot yoga in hopes of helping their TMB.
What are the benefits of yoga?
Before we discuss hot yoga specifically, let’s briefly go over the benefits of traditional yoga. Yoga helps improve physical health. Certain poses can help improve balance, flexibility, build/tone muscle, and even prevent injury. Yoga is a great way to stretch your muscles while also relieving physical and emotional stress. It has also been found to improve body composition in elderly populations – in one study of participants undergoing an 8-week hot yoga program, older participants had a significant decrease in their BMI.
Obesity can increase the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a condition that involves having several different health problems at the same time. These conditions include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and excess body fat around the waist. Consistent yoga practices can prevent obesity, reducing the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
A study was conducted to specifically investigate the success of a 12-week yoga-based intervention in adults with metabolic syndrome. The study found that yoga caused a decrease in leptin (a hormone that helps control appetite and needs to be kept in balance). This is important for people who are stressed at work —they are twice as likely to have metabolic syndrome.
The benefits of yoga are easy to see and can affect both mental and physical health. However, they don’t stop there.
Hot yoga affects metabolic rate
With hot yoga, all of the same benefits of traditional yoga are still present, and a few extra perks are added as well. Hot yoga tends to get a bad rap; or people think it’s crazy, dangerous, or both.
But really, there’s nothing wrong with hot yoga . It can be dangerous because you’ll be sweating a lot in a heated room, but as long as yogis check with their doctor beforehand, hydrate properly, and watch for any signs of intolerance to heat, hot yoga is safe…and remember, it’s a great way to get a workout.
So how exactly does hot yoga help? Hot yoga is often performed in an environment where the temperature is much higher than your body temperature, for example, although most yoga studios keep the temperature below 100 degrees Fahrenheit, some are held in 105 degree heat . Because prolonged exposure to heat can increase your BMR , hot yoga can also increase your BMR .
Hot yoga isn’t so crazy after all
Your metabolism is always running in the background, doing important tasks so it can keep going, too. And while everyone is different, your metabolic rate can be accelerated through exercise like HIIT, and through prolonged exposure to heat using activities like hot yoga.
Yoga is extremely beneficial for many reasons. And while hot yoga may seem like sweaty and undue punishment, the rewards could be worth it, because of the exposure to heat, hot yoga can help speed up your metabolic rate . Not only does hot yoga reap the benefits of increased flexibility and mental strength, it can also help support your body composition goals. The next time you’re looking for a new challenge, why not break out your mat and break a sweat?