Yoga and aerobics both do a body good but in different ways. If weight loss is your goal, it's hard to beat the calorie-burning power of cardio. If you want to limber up, yoga is for you. Keep in mind, however, that the best workout plan incorporates a blend of exercises for a wider range of benefits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that for optimal health, both aerobics and muscle-strengthening activities like yoga are crucial.
For calorie-torching, aerobic exercise takes the cake -- or more accurately, prevents that cake from sticking to your thighs. Running at 6mph, a 155-pound woman burns more than 700 calories in 60 minutes. Performing high-impact aerobics, she burns nearly 500 calories an hour. In a Hatha yoga session, however, that same woman will burn a mere 281 calories each hour. So if you long to lean up, look to aerobics for a sleeker physique, faster.
Strength and Flexibility
Muscle strengthening is where yoga really shines, and it can also do wonders for your flexibility. Aerobic exercise will make you stronger but just doesn't push your muscles in the same way. Researchers at Colorado State University followed young adults who performed Bikram yoga three days a week for eight weeks. They found that subjects improved in deadlift strength and also significantly increased range of motion in their shoulders, backs and hamstrings.
The debate rages on about yoga and cardiovascular health, and while there is no clear answer, it is possible that yoga has no effect in this area. In fact, that CSU study showed no change in aerobic or cardiovascular fitness whatsoever. Aerobic activity, however, has known cardio benefits. Such exercise broadens blood vessels for increased oxygen and nutrient delivery. It also strengthens your heart, improving efficiency. What's more, aerobic exercise lowers "bad" LDL cholesterol levels while raising "good" HDL cholesterol, resulting in less plaque to clog up your arteries.
Here's where it gets personal. You respond to stress differently than other women, so you may need different tactics to reduce it. Aerobics and yoga are both excellent stress reducers, so choose whichever works best for you. All exercises allow your mind to focus on the movements of your body instead of the trials of your hard day. They also increase endorphin levels in your brain, instantly improving mood. In fact, an exercise routine can alleviate depression and even improve your sleep.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Bikram Yoga Training and Physical Fitness in Healthy Young Adults
- MayoClinic.com: Aerobic Exercise: Top 10 Reasons to Get Physical
- ShapeFit.com: Calories Burned During Exercise
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.