Vinyasa Yoga vs. Traditional Cardio for Weight Loss

Exercise really tips the scale in the right direction. Add more movement to your days, along with healthy, calorie-controlled eating, and you'll likely lose weight.

Regularly attending an active class helps you burn calories. (Image: AnaBGD/iStock/Getty Images)

However, is trudging on the treadmill or spinning your legs on the stationary bike the only way? Vinyasa yoga offers an alternative way to exercise, and burns calories to help you lose weight. You move from pose to pose with the breath -- and, in some vigorous classes, you can burn upward of 400 calories.

Sweating using traditional cardio and vinyasa yoga can both help you lose pounds. The one that's best is the one you'll stick with for the long term.

Calorie Burning and Weight Loss

Metabolic disturbances aside, weight loss is mostly a matter of calories in versus calories out. When you consume too many calories and don't use them up through physical activity, you gain weight. Of course, if you keep your calorie intake below your expenditure rate, you lose weight. A 3,500-calorie deficit is what's needed to lose a pound of fat.

While you could lose weight by trimming your consumption level only, it's not super efficient or healthy. When you don't exercise, you tend to lose muscle along with fat and end up "skinny -fat." You can also only trim calories so far -- eating fewer than 1,200 calories per day as a woman or 1,800 can slow your metabolism and weight loss, notes the American College of Sports Medicine.

So, exercise helps you burn extra calories and maintain muscle -- especially if you include some resistance training in there.

Vinyasa Yoga Does Both

Vinyasa yoga can be quite rigorous, linking poses together with Sun Salutations that involve a push-up-style move called Chaturanga. You'll also likely visit plenty of Crescent Lunges, Warriors and balancing postures, which challenge the legs. Vinyasa isn't going to make you into a muscle man, but it is certainly enough to count as the minimal strength training recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chaturanga builds upper-body strength. (Image: fizkes/iStock/Getty Images)

This development of lean muscle means you burn more calories all day long just to maintain your body's function. If you add a day or two of weight training along with it, the better.

As for cardio and calorie-burning, vinyasa yoga has a notable impact. In 50 minutes, a 150-pound woman burns 495 calories. Remember that time has to be spent actively flowing, not resting in Child's pose. Compare this to 50 minutes spent doing other classic cardio:

  • walking at 3 mph: 248
  • stationary biking moderately: 398
  • running at 6 mph: 570
  • elliptical training: 645

Vinyasa yoga seems to be a valid alternative to classic cardio when your measure is calories burned. To lose weight, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 250 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio, including walking or yoga, weekly.

Lacing up your sneakers once in a while provides variety to your workouts. (Image: fizkes/iStock/Getty Images)

Stress Reduction

Another grand benefit of yoga is its ability to reduce stress. While a select few may get their Zen on during a long run, it's one of yoga's main intentions. This de-stressing can reduce your desire to snack mindlessly when your Mom calls to nag or you don't get the promotion at work.

Yoga also improves mindfulness. A regular practice can make you less inclined to have a second helping or reach for dessert habitually. You gain a better connection to the awareness that your stomach is full, and you're satisfied without a sugary treat.

Do You Enjoy It?

While yoga might be a tool in your weight-loss arsenal, what makes it most valuable is whether or not you like it. If you'd rather be walking outside with your pooch than Down Dogging in class, yoga isn't going to be as effective for weight loss long term. You have to stick with the activity for a lifetime, not just a couple of weeks or months.

Vinyasa yoga may be a good exercise to add to a broad menu of workouts, rather than exist as your sole source of movement. This provides you with variety and combats boredom, so you keep physically active week after week, month after month.

Remember, no exercise is going to make up for a poor diet. Focus on eating healthy, whole foods and moderating portions.

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