Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Yoga vs the Gym - response to recent news and UT study.

A recent story on KSBY just came to my attention. The story discussed the difference between yoga "workouts" and gym workouts, and which one is better. The conclusion stated that both provide the same benefits but people doing yoga were slightly more flexible at the end.



KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

I beg to differ.

First, I was not able to read the actual "study" because all the credential links point HERE, and if you go there, you'll see that it mentions nothing about such study, only general information on fitness.

Second, I want to know what kind of yoga people did and what type of workouts people did. This news report, gives you some idea: yoga 3x per week for one hour each, stretching, balancing, and core work, gym - treadmill pushing the heart rate. Now right there, i can see a problem.

If you've ever been at the gym you know that there are people who basically "stroll" on the treadmill and others who sweat like there's no tomorrow not just pushing the heart rate but busting the treadmill with inclines and speed. However, most people watch TV and stroll and/or chitchat with the neighbor. Which kind were the research subjects? What were the "fitness parameters" measured? If heart rate was the main parameter, than yes, strolling down the street would be compatible to a yoga class that only does stretching, balancing, and core work. You don't break a sweat. In fact, if the same treadmill heart rate intensity was compared to someone doing restorative yoga, the treadmill will win while the restorative yoga person is chilling out on the ground actually lowering their heart rate.

Lowering the heart rate is why people with high blood pressure would benefit more from yoga than any kind of gym workout. Other benefits of yoga include mental clarity, improved sleep, which in turn improves insulin/sugar cycles in the body and decreases stress hormones responsible for gaining weight. Further, flexibility increases while one does yoga, but not so on a treadmill. Yoga takes the joints through their full range of motion, keeping them healthy and decreasing inflammation. Running on the treadmill does no such things but if you overdo it you'll get a muscle ache, increasing inflammation, and you will be compacting your joints which over time has a negative effect on your knees and hips. Runners are some of the youngest demographic with the most hip replacements!

On the other hand, if the treadmill subjects were compared to people doing yoga in a power yoga class, or a vyniasa class, heart rates would be very compatible. However, ask yourself the question, if a treadmill-only person goes to a vinyasa class, will they get their butt kicked? The answer is usually "yes" because yoga also challenges one's coordination, self-acceptance, and the ability to stay focused and present. There's no TV to watch the news while going through sun salutations.

I mean the above in the ideal case when people going to yoga classes are actually doing yoga. One reason the study may have shown no difference between yoga and the gym could be because the quality of yoga has diminished to a point that it is no better than the gym.

Thinking of my private clients and why they do yoga, I can say that there are people who cannot, for various reasons, go to the gym and/or the gym exercises would be harmful to them. Yoga is the only, or one of very few options they can take to stay moving. Others come to me to get their head in the right place, to digest psychological challenges and to feel grounded. Some come to stretch in peace and have me help them because alone they can't do it the same. Yet others, come to fine tune their practice, to rehabilitate injuries they got at the gym, and so on... How versatile is the treadmill compared to yoga?

At the end of the day, I too believe that some movement is better than no movement but if you really believe the study that 2.5 hours per week of movement will keep you healthy, you are out of your mind. The older a person gets, the more movement they need. Gentle to moderate movement is better than hard-core movement. If one eats the usual 1800 - 2800 calories diet per day but only burns 500 calories per week, that person is headed for the fat house. Then it doesn't matter if they are doing yoga or going to the gym. Obesity and being sedentary are America's biggest killers, indirectly causing an epidemic of heart disease, diabetes, and slew of other problems.

In conclusion - media loves a headline, but digging into the details a different reality usually emerges. Anyone going to the gym should also be doing some yoga, in my humble opinion. Yoga is also great for cross training purposes and will benefit any other type of athletic endeavor. If you are not doing yoga you are missing out, but then again, make sure you are doing yoga not just something that has "yoga" in the label but it is actually another gym workout.

What's your take on this? Love to hear it from those going to the gym and those going to yoga. Comments are appreciated! Share this post of you know someone who can benefit from it.

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