Yoga and Bar classes are a great way to exercise; you strengthen your core, become more flexible, burn some calories and tone your muscles. The focus on the breath in yoga practice and some bar classes is highly beneficial, a great mind-body way to calm the heart and mind.
But we all need aerobic exercise- cardio- to get the full health benefits of exercise. Aerobic exercise is defined as the type of exercise that gets you to around 70% of your maximum heart rate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week (breathing is faster and you are sweating) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
Aerobic exercise releases all sorts of substances into the circulation that directly improve your health- factors like IGF (insulin-like growth factor), BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor). Plus, aerobic exercise hugely benefits your heart and blood vessels since they are working at a high level, and of course aerobic exercise burns an enormous amount of calories- anywhere from 500-700 for a typical indoor cycling class at Revocycle.
In the last couple of years, a few studies have looked at the exercise qualities of yoga- in terms of strength building, flexibility enhancement, heart function, cardiovascular improvement. The one that has gotten the most attention was done at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, where the researchers put two groups of inactive women into a 3x per week hatha yoga class for 8 weeks, and the other group continued with their sedentary living. Before the program they were measured for all sorts of fitness variables, and the same tests were done on both groups after the 8 week period. The yoga group showed a small increase in strength and flexibility, but showed no increase at all in their aerobic capacity or maximum heart rate- in other words, the participants were not getting an aerobic workout.
What about Power Yoga? Dr. Porcari, from the University of Wisconsin study, warns that efforts to boost the cardio benefits of yoga will only result in reduced flexibility and balance benefits. “It’s always a tradeoff,” says Porcari. “Yoga was designed for relaxation, primarily. The more aerobic you make yoga, the less improvements you’ll see in those other areas.”
Another study found that Hatha yoga raised aerobic capacity half as much as just walking.
Yet another study found that body composition (i.e. fat and lean muscle) did not change from yoga training, nor did pulmonary function.
A perfect aerobic exercise for everyone does not exist, but indoor cycling comes very close. It produces no impact on the joints, it works for all body types, its not dependent on the weather, and its a group activity with a strong social component.
Indoor cycling not only burns huge calories, it tones the lower body like no other exercise- the quads, the calves, the glutes, the hamstrings are all strongly engaged in the cycling motion. The core is also a major part of the cycling motion, holding your midsection as a lever against the pedaling motion, especially when you are climbing out of the saddle. Plus you can adjust the resistance to any level you want during a class, so anybody can ride and enjoy the group.