If you intend to take (or currently attend) anything from Bikram yoga to heated spin classes, you’ll want to read the truth behind these “hot” workouts…they may not have the health benefits you think (from the article Are Hot Workouts Healthier?)!
From Bikram yoga to heated spin classes, fitness gyms are turning up the heat. What to know before you go.
Latosha Lovell is always willing to try something once. “That’s sort of my philosophy about life,” says the 45-year-old interior designer in Pasadena, California. So when a friend invited her to check out The Sweat Shoppe, a new heated spin studio in North Hollywood, last March, she saddled up. The workout, she thought, could be the perfect cardio substitution for her regular treadmill sessions that had begun to wear on her knees.
That first class was a fog. “I was totally exhausted and a little confused” afterward, Lovell recalls. But the prevailing memory is a positive one: “I felt completely amazing.” She soon began taking up to five classes at The Sweat Shoppe each week and now credits the studio with her 8-pound weight loss, strong lower body and core, reduced environmental allergies and mental grit. “It’s greatly improved my quality of life on the health level,” she says.
While The Sweat Shoppe is the country’s first heated spin studio, it’s not the only place taking a cue from Bikram yoga — a style of hot yoga that took off in the 1970s. Plenty of studios are turning up the heat during exercise classes, a practice that owners claim intensifies workouts, among other benefits. Gym-goers are eating it up: The Sweat Shoppe, for one, opened with both heated and non-heated classes, but switched to exclusively offering hot classes to keep up with the demand, says Mimi Benz, who founded the studio with her spin instructor husband in 2011 after a broken air conditioner in a spin class spurred the idea.
“People were really into the heated thing,” she says. The studio has since relocated to a larger space and has seen a relatively consistent 30 percent growth in revenue year over year, Benz says. The heated classes at CorePower Yoga, a studio chain that fuses the mindfulness of yoga with the intensity of other workouts, meanwhile, are the most popular and widely offered, says Heather Peterson, the company’s chief yoga officer. The chain opened its first studio in 2002 and now has 150. “A lot of people just love a really good sweat,” she says.
Hot and Beneficial or Hot and Bothered?
Burn more calories and lose weight by working harder; cleanse the body by sweating more; reduce risk of injury by loosening the muscles — there are plenty of theories as to why heated fitness classes may be healthier than their cooler counterparts, but most raise eyebrows amongexercise professionals.
“The only benefits [are] if you’re an endurance athlete and you’re trying to train for a race and you’re trying to acclimatize your body and mind toward exercise in the heat,” says Diana Zotos Florio, a physical therapist and yoga teacher in the New York City area. “Otherwise, all of the proposed benefits … aren’t true. There’s no point; there’s more risk than anything else. We’re just not designed for it.”
Still, most experts agree that people who are in good shape and lack certain medical conditions can benefit from heated workouts, as they would from any exercise. “I certainly advocate and promote exercise — you just have to have the preparation and the tolerance level for what you’re about to undertake, and then it can be a fun thing and probably pretty good for you,” says Michael Bergeron, senior vice president of development and applications in the Center for Advanced Analytics in Sport & Health at Game Changer Analytics. “I just don’t think there’s anything particularly special about it.”
Tempted to turn up the temperature on your workout? Heed these expert tips first:
1. Know the risks.
Some people — namely those with heart or lung problems — should avoid heated workouts. Pregnant women and those taking medications that affect body temperature should consult with their doctors before taking a hot class. And everyone else should be aware of the very real risks of dehydration and overheating, says Dr. Jason Zaremski, an assistant professor in the University of Florida College of Medicine’s department of orthopedics and rehabilitation.
“The major concern is that your body’s core temperature will begin to rise and you put your internal organs and central nervous system at risk,” he says. Another issue: Getting too tired too soon can affect your posture and alter your ability to control your muscles and movements, boosting your risk for injury, Bergeron adds. As Zotos puts it, “people tend to stretch deeper [in heated classes,] but they’re not ready for it,” she says. “That’s where you tend to get injuries to your tendons or ligaments.”
2. Do your research.
“Hot” varies from class to class — some may hover around 80 degrees; a Bikram yoga class will be close to 105 degrees. Humidity and ventilation differ, too. All make a big difference in your ability to handle — and benefit from — heated classes, experts say. Benz recommends talking to the studio ahead of time about the room’s environment; The Sweat Shoppe, which keeps its classes at 80 to 84 degrees, for example, has cooler “microclimates” in the room where newbies can sit.
3. Manage expectations.
If you’re a fitness enthusiast looking for a new challenge or an elite athlete personal training for a race, a heated class could be a good fit. But if you’re trying to burn more calories while doing less work, trim fat or “detox,” keep in mind the support for such benefits is thin at best. “Hotter workouts are harder than performing the exact same workout at a lower temperature; thus, you will burn more calories,” Zaremski concedes. “But if you cannot maintain the same level of intensity and exertion in a heated environment … this defeats the purpose.”
Looking to lose fat? Stick to an air-conditioned gym, Bergeron advises. “As your body heats up, you favor burning carbohydrate versus fat,” he says. “So, even though you may feel you are getting a ‘better’ workout, if burning body fat is your goal, exercise in cool conditions.”
And while it’s true that exercising in hotter conditions can increase plasma volume, reduce resting heart rate, improve cardiovascular efficiency and enhance your sweat mechanism, “these adaptations vary and are dependent on multiple factors,” such as how hard, long and often you work out in those conditions, Zaremski points out. Simply exercising, Zotos says, is the safer way to reap the benefits of an elevated heart rate.
And the idea that sweating profusely purges your body of toxins? Hogwash, experts say. “What you’re sweating out is just sodium and calcium and potassium, and those are nutrients your body needs,” Zotos says. “The only way you detoxify is by having a fully functioning liver and kidneys.” Even The Sweat Shoppe’s Benz agrees that the research isn’t there to support heat’s cleansing effect on the body. “We don’t really do it for the detoxing thing,” she says, “even though I know people were drawn to that word.”
4. Listen to your body — and your buddy.
The Sweat Shoppe instructors are trained to recognize signs of fatigue, teach modifications and encourage people to sit, stop or slow down if they start feeling lightheaded, Benz says. “We don’t push people.” That’s important, experts say, since the heated environment can actually reduce your capability to recognize your limits. “Overheating can affect your brain and cognitive function; thus, you are often not the best person to assess your own status and stop,” says Bergeron, who recommends the buddy system for heated classes.
5.Drink lots — lots — of water.
The morning after Ali Hines’ first Bikram yoga class, she threw up. “It wasn’t the class,” says the 31-year-old in District of Columbia, whose next heated classes went smoother. “I just didn’t prepare or I didn’t drink enough water.” Indeed, drinking enough water is the №1 priority before heading to a hot workout, pros say. And in heated classes, “enough” probably means more than you think. “Make sure you’re well-hydrated well in advance of getting there,” says Chris Fluck, a Bikram yoga instructor in Philadelphia, who also recommends adding a pinch of salt to your water after class to replenish minerals lost through sweat.
6. Believe in yourself.
When Lovell feels like she can’t push any harder during a fitness class, she draws on the energy of the riders around her and reminds herself that getting through the workout will only make her stronger. It works. “When you’re in there and you’re subject to that level of heat, you have to get out of your head, and it takes a lot of mental strength to get through that,” she says. “It’s helped me in other areas of my life.”
Copyright 2016 U.S. News & World Report
Is a “hot” workout the right approach for you? What other dangers or cautions have you identified?
Picture Credit: MSN.com/© Dina Rudick/The Boston Globe via Getty Images-Do you need to sweat to lose weight or achieve your best shape?
Author: Michael Moody Fitness with excerpt sourced from the article “ Are Hot Workouts Healthier? “ on MSN.com.
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