#InternationalDayOfYoga: Is Yoga Better Than Cardio?

by Dr. Jonathan D'Souza

If you think yoga is only for mental and emotional health, you’re wrong. A recent research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that yoga was effective in lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and was also beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels. The research, which involved a comprehensive analysis of 1,404 studies, compared the health benefits of yoga on participants who did yoga with those who did aerobic exercise and those who did no exercise at all.[1]

However, this is not the only research that validates that yoga can be an equal substitute for cardio exercises such as walking, biking and running. Several studies in the past have claimed that yoga can be beneficial in lowering BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol and also aids in weight loss, just like cardio exercises.

Counting Calories: Yoga & Cardio
Yoga involves a control over one’s breath and body postures that create self-awareness, reduce mental and physical stress, and improve physical strength. An individual weighing 150lb would burn

  • 189 calories per hour with hatha yoga,
  • 351 calories per hour with ashtanga yoga,
  • 477 calories per hour with Bikram yoga and
  • 594 calories per hour with vinyasa yoga

If you compare this with an hour of jogging or playing football, the same person would burn 500 calories. While the calories burnt are higher here, so are the chances of physical injury or muscle cramps resulting from over indulgence. Yoga, on the other hand, can benefit your exercise regime in several ways.

  • Practicing yoga regularly improves flexibility and minimizes injury.
  • Yogic breathing exercises (pranayama) increase the oxygen uptake of your lungs and improve the availability of oxygen in the blood.
  • Oxygen-rich blood provides muscles with energy and promotes the burning of fat.
  • Different yoga poses target small and large muscles and improve muscle tone.
  • The stress-relieving effect of yoga reduces junk food cravings and prevents you from consuming more calories than you burn.

Yoga That Focuses On Cardio
While there are many different yoga poses that help you de-stress and relax, there are strenuous ones as well that involve fluid movements to burn more calories.

  • Vinyasa yoga is a series of poses done in succession (coupled with breathing exercises) to generate heat and burn calories.
  • One full round of surya namaskar (sun salutation) takes approximately 3 minutes and 40 seconds and burns around 13.9 calories, which means that 25 minutes of surya namaskar would burn 350 calories. A vinyasa yoga session is normally started with several rounds of surya namaskar.
  • Power yoga and ashtanga yoga both comprise a series of yoga poses to maximize calorie burn.

June 21 is International Yoga Day. To celebrate it with Z Living, click here.

For more interesting stories, visit our Health page. Read more stories on Complementary and Alternative Medicine here.

1. Chu P, Gotink RA, Yeh GY, Goldie SJ, Hunink MM. The effectiveness of yoga in modifying risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2014 Dec 15. pii: 2047487314562741. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID:25510863.

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