In a world of misinformation, Fitness Pudding is here to separate fact from fallacy, and science from fiction.

Yoga for Weight Loss?

Yoga for Weight Loss?

I just saw another miscontrued web article on ABC/Yahoo! News titled, "Jennifer Aniston Touts 'Yogalosophy' for Stunning Figure". A celebrity favorite, yoga has claims spread all across the Internet that it can shed pounds, tone and lean out muscles (whatever that means). But, what does the research say about it?

Benefits of Yoga

Before I get too far, yoga is great for a number of reasons...just not for weight loss. Check out some of the potential areas of benefit:

  1. Mindfulness
  2. Anxiety, despression & stress (including job stress)
  3. Sleep disturbance
  4. Low back pain
  5. Headaches
  6. Osteoarthritis & rehumatoid arthritis
  7. Cardiovascular health (including mild to moderate high blood pressure)
  8. Diabetes (maybe)
  9. Balance & flexibility
  10. Light muscular endurance & strength

For more on these benefits, see this review article.

Weight Loss?

Clearly, Yoga has a lot of benefits, however weight loss is not one of them. Research tells us that Yoga, alone, has minimal to no effect on weight or fat loss. However, when yogic training is combined with healthy eating and stress relief, weight loss may occur. However, it is unlikely that a large contribution of the weight loss is due to the yoga, in these cases.

If we look at a simple analogy with caloric expenditure in 1-hour*, we can begin to see why:

Activity

METs

Calories/Hour

Hatha Yoga

2.5

170

Fishing (general)

3.0

204

Brisk Walking

3.5

238

Weight Lifting

6.0

408

Circuit Training

8.0

544

*These figures are based on a 150 pound person from MET estimates provided by the ACSM Physical Activity Compendium. Of course, other forms of Yoga may provide different estimates, but have not been shown to compete with more traditional forms of aerobic exercise and weight training in Caloric expenditure.

However, one advantage of yoga is that many adopt a yogic lifestyle, which commonly promotes eating a healthy, often plant-based, diet, highlight stress relief, and promote a physically active life outside of the yoga classes. So, weight loss could easily occur once this lifestyle is adopted.

Conclusions

Clearly, Yoga is not the primary choice for Caloric expenditure or weight/fat loss, and does not hold up to claims that the celebrity tabloids or 'trusted' news sources would have us to believe. However, Yoga does provide many benefits, and can be an extraordinary supplement to other physical activities that may be better suited for weight loss.


 

Note. If you want to calculate how many estimated Calories you would expend doing the above activities, or any other activies in the Physical Activity Compendium, simply follow these steps:

  1. Get your body weight into kilograms (kg). Your weight in pounds (lbs) / 2.2 = your weight in kg.
    Example: 150 lbs / 2.2 = 68 kg.

  2. Multiply your weight in kilograms (kg) by the MET value of the activity. This will give you how many Calories you would estimated to expend if you did that activity for 1 hour.
    Example: 68 kg x 3.0 METs = 204 Calories per hour
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