If you're torn between a brisk, refreshing jog and a relaxing yoga session, take heart — either way, you're doing your body good. Both exercises will improve your strength, stamina and overall physical fitness. So which one has the most benefits? That depends on what you expect from exercise, and most importantly, which activity feels best for you.
Yoga is known for its relaxing, meditative moves. The gentle stretching erases stress, and you can enhance the results by incorporating deep breathing exercises into your routine. Yet, as effective as yoga may be, jogging can produce similar results. It might seem contradictory, but working up a sweat with aerobic exercise actually relaxes you in the long run. Researchers at Harvard Medical School note that endurance activities like jogging help combat depression and wipe out anxiety. And remember, everybody responds differently to exercise. You might find your deepest calm through either yoga or jogging.
Here's where one of the biggest differences between yoga and jogging comes into play. As healthy as yoga may be, it simply doesn't provide the same aerobic benefits. In 2005, the American Council on Exercise conducted a study on the benefits of yoga. They found that, despite many other health perks, yoga did not improve aerobic capacity in any significant way. In order for an exercise to provide aerobic benefits, it has to have a minimum level of intensity. Jogging is intense enough, but yoga is not.
This is where yoga really shines. The stretching and bending of a yoga program can make your body more flexible than ever, while jogging won't necessarily make you any more limber. ACE researchers found that holding yoga poses for 30 seconds is enough to do the trick. After eight weeks, subjects who performed yoga gained an average of 13 to 35 percent greater flexibility. The benefits were most pronounced in the trunk, shoulders and ankles.
No need to choose here -- both yoga and jogging will help you extend your years on earth. One study conducted by Copenhagen City Heart in 2012 showed that women who jog live an average of 5.6 years longer, and males add 6.2 years to their lives with regular jogs. As for yoga, it appears to add to longevity by strengthening your core muscles. A study published in the "Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" in 2002 revealed that abdominal strength prolonged life span, while factors like upper-body strength and grip strength did not.
If calories are your main concern, jogging is the clear winner here. At a weight of 155 pounds, you'll burn about 281 calories an hour doing yoga. Jogging you'll burn about 493 calories, a difference of more than 200 calories. Jogging is simply a more intense activity than yoga, and therefore requires more energy.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.