What are the health benefits of exercising in high temperatures?
There are some benefits of exercising in the heat for fitness, in particular, the short term effects on the heart. Exercising in high temperature (over 32 deg), regularly for 5-10 days at a moderate level for 60 minutes causes a heat adaptation effect, which means that your body increases circulating blood volume and your heart is able to pump more efficiently when in high temperatures.
This improves fitness performance in the short term, however, this performance improvement is only really limited to high performance athletes and not an average person. In addition, more training in the heat does produce further improvements in performance, and training in the heat needs to continue in order to maintain improvements.
So fitness training in the heat is good in preparation for an event or if the event you are participating in is in the heat, but not for long term fitness.
The other potential benefit of exercising in high temperatures is weight loss. Exercising at the same intensity in hot temperatures does use more energy than the same exercise intensity exercise in colder temperatures, however, it is hard to maintain the same level of intensity of exercise at high temperatures compared to low temperature, so the effects balance out. Sweating itself is a passive process and doesn’t mean that you are working harder and burning more energy. Bikram Yoga doesn’t burn much more kilojoules than regular yoga and burns a lot less kilojoules than regular cardio training
What are the potential harms of exercising in high temperature?
Exercising in high temperatures is not safe for everyone. If you have heart problems, issues with blood pressure or are pregnant, it is not safe to exercise in high temperature. As the temperature rises and your core temperature rises, this increases the load on your heart which affects your blood pressure and the strain on the heart. This is particularly true if you are unfit, so high temperature training should only be attempted after you have achieved your base level of fitness.
In addition, not being adequately hydrated during high temperature training can lead to heat related problem, such as cramps, dehydration and in worst case, heat stroke.
What are your concerns with Bikram Yoga?
Besides the potential harmful affects of dehydration, which is common for all high temperature exercise, Bikram Yoga heats up the ligaments and muscles, which increases the flexibility of the joints in the short term only. This means that if the movements are not controlled and not kept within your normal limitations, you are more likely to injure your joints, muscles and ligaments. Bikram Yoga should really be undertaken if you are experienced in Yoga and know your limitation and good technique, and should not be for beginners.
If someone trains in high temperature, does that ensure that they will see better fitness results?
Training at high temperatures does improve fitness, but only in the short term. Heat adaptation of training at high temperatures can be achieved after 5-10 days training, however, this is only maintained if you continue to train in high temperatures. So this is great if you are preparing for an event for that extra performance boost, similar to altitude training, however, it is not beneficial for regular fitness or for more weight loss. Make sure you have a good base of fitness first before starting high temperature training or you will be more vulnerable to heat related injuries such as dehydration and heat stroke
Do you believe that Bikram Yoga is a more effective and beneficial form of exercise as opposed to regular yoga?
Bikram Yoga is a good form of training for experienced Yoga participants, who want the extra challenge of the increased flexibility of the muscles and ligaments, which results from the high temperatures. However, it is not where you should start your yoga training. Yoga is about postural control and positioning control. The high temperatures increase your flexibility in the short term, which means you have to control a larger range of joint movement, great for a challenge, but more potential for injury.
Bikram Yoga uses mildly more energy than regular yoga in terms of weight loss, but would not be as effective as regular cardio training for weight loss, either in low or high temperatures, which uses substantially more energy than yoga.
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