Vinyasa Yoga vs. Traditional Cardio for Weight Loss

Is trudging on the treadmill or spinning your legs on the stationary bike the only way to lose weight? Vinyasa yoga is a weight-loss option that helps you burns calories as you move from pose to pose. When it comes to yoga vs. cardio, both can help you lose pounds.

Regularly attending an active class helps you burn calories. (Image: fizkes/iStock/GettyImages)

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, according to Mayo Clinic.

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." In addition, if you restrict your calories too much, you may end up being malnourished.

The Cleveland Clinic notes too, that people who lose weight rapidly through excess calorie restriction end up gaining the weight back. The healthier, more sustainable option is simply to eat less and exercise more to lose weight and keep it off while maintaining muscle.

Vinyasa Yoga for Weight Loss

Vinyasa yoga benefits your weight-loss efforts in many ways, with rigorous movements that link poses together with breath. The moves themselves require core strength and challenge all the major muscle groups with poses such as the push-up-style Chaturanga, Crescent Lunge, Warrior poses and balancing postures.

Vinyasa isn't going to make you into a muscle man or woman, but it is certainly enough to count as the minimal strength training recommended by Health.gov's Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. These guidelines suggest including two days of strength training and at least 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity per week.

As you develop lean muscle with vinyasa yoga, weight loss may become more effortless. With the increase in muscle, you'll 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, even better.

Yoga Vs. Cardio

As for yoga vs. cardio, vinyasa yoga has a notable calorie burn. In 60 minutes, a 150-pound woman burns approximately 594 calories, according to the HealthStatus calories burned calculator. That number assumes you're actively flowing the whole time without rests in Child's pose or other resting postures. Compare this to 60 minutes spent by a 150-pound woman doing other classic types of cardio:

  • Walking at 3 mph: 297

  • Stationary bike, moderate: 450

  • Running at 6 mph: 684

  • Elliptical trainer: 799

Vinyasa yoga seems to be a valid alternative to classic cardio when your measure is calories burned. To lose weight, perform closer to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans' recommended 300 minutes per week and combine moderate and vigorous activities throughout the week.

Vinyasa Yoga Benefits

Another vinyasa yoga benefit is its ability to reduce stress. While a select few may get their Zen on during a long run, stress relief is one of yoga's main intentions. This de-stressing can reduce your desire to snack mindlessly when you're dealing with a big project at work or managing a long commute.

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.

While yoga might be a tool in your weight-loss arsenal, what makes it most valuable is whether you like it. If you'd rather be walking outside with your pooch than Downward Dogging in class, yoga isn't going to be as effective for long-term weight loss.

Instead, vinyasa yoga may be a good exercise to add to a broad menu of workouts, rather than existing as your sole source of movement. Remember, too, that no exercise makes up for a poor diet. Focus on eating healthy, whole foods and moderating your portions.

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