If you adore sweating it out in the Bikram studio but want to add to your workout schedule, go for an exercise that complements your yoga routine. Since Bikram provides strength training but no aerobic activity, cardio is the perfect companion. You can count on Bikram for stress relief as well as muscle toning. It will also increase flexibility and balance. However, aerobic exercise presents a different set of benefits. The best part? You can do your cardio with the fan on if you please.
The brainchild of Bikram Choudhury, Bikram yoga is performed at a grueling temperature of 105 degrees and high humidity. During each 90-minute class, you'll bend into a series of 26 poses as well as practice controlled breathing techniques. You might feel nauseated and tired the first few times you try it, but most people adapt with regular sessions. The Bikram website recommends taking at least 10 classes per month for maximum benefits; if you don't have the time or funds to make it to the studio, you can always follow along to a DVD at home.
Complement your Bikram with cardio exercise, since Bikram may not provide aerobic or cardiovascular benefits on its own. There's not a ton of research on Bikram and cardio, but one study was published in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research" in 2012. Researchers followed healthy young adults over a period of eight weeks; some engaged in 24 total sessions of Bikram, others did not. Neither group demonstrated improvements in aerobic capacity or cardiovascular health, although the Bikram group did show greater strength and flexibility. To get your cardio kicks, try speedwalking, jogging, swimming or cycling.
To get into tip-top shape, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends performing moderate cardio at least 150 minutes per week, or vigorous cardio for at least 75 minutes per week. This doesn't mean working out for hours at a time; break it down into shorter sessions spread over most days of the week. For example, perform 30 minutes of moderate cardio or 15 minutes of intense cardio Monday thru Friday. Each session should last at least 10 minutes for aerobic benefits.
Excellent moderate cardio choices include walking briskly, riding a bicycle on flat terrain or taking a water aerobics class. Household chores such as lawn mowing even count as long as they ramp up your heart and breathing rates. For vigorous cardio, try jogging, cycling uphill or playing singles tennis. To make your workout more exciting, try alternating moderate exercises with vigorous intervals, such as walking and then jogging for a few minutes.
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.