Most forms of yoga are mild. They don’t elevate the heart rate significantly, though they do tone muscles and help improve fitness. Any type of physical activity has the potential to aid fat burning, but cardio does burn more calories than yoga over the same period of time, and it’s more likely to help with weight loss.
Both yoga and cardio have the potential to reap significant physical and psychological benefits. Regular physical activity of any type has the potential to help people sleep better, elevate their moods, increase energy levels and reduce risks for conditions including cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes and high cholesterol. At the same time, yoga specifically can help manage depression, anxiety and insomnia as well as reduce stress.
Cardio exercise burns more calories than yoga. According to the American Council on Exercise, one hour of hatha yoga and posed stretching burns about 180 calories for a 160-pound person, but moderate aerobic exercise burns closer to 475 calories. For a person of the same weight, cardio exercises such as jogging, jumping rope, brisk walking and treadmill running burn about 580, 730, 275 and 650 calories, respectively. It takes about 3,500 calories to burn 1 pound of fat, so cardio will take off weight more quickly than yoga.
Although cardio exercises burn more calories than yoga, which makes them better for weight loss and fat loss, yoga workouts have separate benefits. Because they involve so much stretching, they can help build flexibility and prevent injury during more vigorous exercise. Yoga may also help to target and tone specific muscle groups in the body more effectively than cardio.
Yoga does not have the same calorie-burning power as cardio exercise, so any weight-loss routine that involves yoga should also involve some aerobic activity. Healthy weight loss calls for reducing daily calorie intake as well as participating in regular physical activity, as exercise on its own helps with weight maintenance more than weight loss.
For some people with limited mobility, joint problems or injuries, intense cardio exercise is not appropriate and yoga could serve as a viable weight-loss option. Before starting any new fitness plan, it’s helpful to talk to a physician for personalized advice. Remember that any exercise poses a risk of injury if it’s done incorrectly, so make sure to view demonstrations of proper form before participating in either yoga or cardio workouts.