Where is it that you belong? Should you be on the yoga mat working on stretches, breath control and building body balance, or sweating it out at the gym with intense cardio workouts that rev up your heart rate and help you blast fat and calories?
While yoga purists will tell you that a consistent yoga practice benefits both the mind and body immensely, regular gym-goers advocate the cardio and strength training route to lose weight and build muscle tone. And they're both right... sort of.
More importantly, they both have a common goal—better health, physical fitness, and overall well being. So, how do you pick the one that's right for you?
Your best off making this decisino based on your current health and fitness goals, so let's start by defining those:
Strictly For Fat Burn
It is simple math—burn more calories than you take in and you'll lose weight. A pound of body weight equals 3,500 calories. In order to lose weight quickly, you need to take on a workout program that helps you burn the most calories in the least amount of time. But that doesn't necessarily mean hitting the treadmill.
David Poulter, a Physical Therapist at Orthology, the center for rapid recovery from physical injuries and chronic pain, says that the jury is still out on which burns most calories overall—aerobics (gym) burns calories at the time of performance, whereas resistance training (yoga) can raise the metabolism for several hours after completion. Now, yoga on its own proves to be too tame for extreme weight loss, and it will take longer to see visible results in terms of fat burn.
Do You Want To Be Fit, Or Do You Want To Be Well?
“Taking up yoga generally has a positive effect on one's lifestyle and improves your attitude towards your body. Sure, people change their dietary habits after taking up yoga, but they also practice meditation and relaxation, so in terms of long-term gains, yoga works on your weighty issues and wellbeing, and is more than just about burning calories,” explains Poulter.
Another key point is your current fitness level. While gym programs have the added advantage of ensuring your already healthy body becomes more resistant to wear and tear, if you've got back pain, injuries, knee problems, etc, yoga (not the gym) is the one that can come to your rescue.
“Yoga helps build an awareness of your muscles, which lets you gain control of the way your body moves through space. You’ll move with intention, efficiency, and purpose,” says Craig Ramsey, fitness expert of Fit & Phab (Pure Health and Beauty).
The Battle Ground
- Round 1 To Yoga: When you hold a yoga pose for long, your muscle tissue is metabolically active and you burn fat consistently. On the other hand, when you exercise, your metabolism tends to stabilize (peak) at some point and the fat burning process stops.
- Round 2 To Gym: Ramsey says that yoga is not designed for every body type. He gives the example of bodybuilders who have a tendency to put too much strain on their joints. “This group is injury prone when holding yoga positions because they place so much muscle mass on their wrists, elbows, and shoulder joints.” The gym on the other hand, has program options for everyone. “With cardio equipment, free weights, cable machines, and a variety of group classes to choose from, you can mix it up to suit your specific needs. This also eliminates boredom and continuously challenges athleticism which aids weight loss,” he adds.
- Round 3 (It’s A Tie): At the gym, you are usually working on each part of your body separately or on a group of muscles together, which is great if you want to target and strengthen specific areas of your body. With yoga, all your poses and stretching isn’t limited to just one muscle or body part. So the defining question is, do you want to tone your abs (butt/legs/back) with gym, or take on a full-body workout with yoga?
“I view both of these as great supplements for weight loss, but if you want real, fast results you’ve got to have accountability and a good workout regimen that combines cardio and resistance training in intense intervals,” says Bedros Keuilian, certified trainer and CEO of Fit Body Boot Camp.
Poulter says that both yoga and the gym, a change in diet (fewer calories), and becoming more active leads to weight loss over time. If your goal is weight loss, then cardio and its calorie-burning power is the best -- hit the gym. If you want a flexible and lean body, then yoga is the way to go -- hit the mat.