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Hot Yoga May Provide Heat Stress Conditioning for Athletes

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If you’re looking for a good cross-training technique for your more athletic clients, suggest they practice hot yoga, which may boost aerobic performance while minimizing exercise stress.

University of British Columbia, Vancouver, researchers recruited 10 elite female field hockey players for observation. All athletes participated in 60-minute hot-yoga classes (30 degrees Celsius/86 degrees Fahrenheit) over 6 consecutive days, during which they did not engage in any other exercise. Following the intervention, the athletes played in a national-team camp.

Researchers collected data related to cardiovascular performance, internal temperature and changes in blood plasma volume. Data analysis showed that hot-yoga practice involved minimal thermal load and nominal cardiovascular strain, while promoting maximal cardiovascular performance for the athletes.

Lead investigator Andrew S. Perrotta, PhD, of the UBC faculty of medicine, said, “Based on the results of my study—improved running speed at aerobic and anaerobic threshold and improved fuel utilization at high-intensity running—I think hot yoga may provide an advantage prior to entering a triathlon or running event in cool or hot environments.

“How hot the environment [is where] you’re performing yoga may determine the degree of benefits you receive. We used a mild environment, as provided through far-infrared heating, to give a comfortable and enjoyable experience. More aggressive forms of hot yoga implement greater heat stress, as they’re performed in an ambient environment of 40 C [104 F]. Those wishing to compete in extreme environments may want to look for those yoga studios.”

The study appeared in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (2018; doi:10.1519/JSC.00000000000 02705).

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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