Step Ahead Wellness Center Blog

Lose Weight with Yoga!

Posted by deborah neiman on Tue, Mar 04, 2014 @ 10:17 AM

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Yoga and Weight Loss: What Does Research Show?

Just crunching the numbers it wouldn’t seem like yoga would help with
weight loss. More traditional forms of yoga only burn about 200 calories per
hour session. While every bit of activity counts, that’s not a lot of energy
expended for the time you spend doing it. On the other hand, power yoga burns
between 300 and 400 calories per session.

Despite the fact that you don’t expend as many calories during a yoga
session as you do with high-intensity boot camp workouts or other
metabolism-boosting workouts, yoga may still give you a “leg up” when it comes
to shedding body fat. In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute,
researchers looked at the impact of yoga on body weight. They surveyed a group
of over 15,000 men and women regarding their exercise habits and their weight
between the ages of 45 and 55. In this group of healthy people, yoga seemed to
offer weight control benefits. Participants that were carrying a few too many
pounds that did yoga lost about 5 pounds while those that didn’t gained an average
of 14 pounds over a ten-year period.

How Does Yoga Help with Weight Loss?

Yoga seems to have benefits for weight control, but it may not be related
to calories expended. Experts believe the answer may lie in yoga’s ability to
increase body awareness. People who practice yoga become more in touch with
their bodies and learn to deal with internal sensations like hunger in a
healthier way. As a result, they eat more mindfully.

For example, when eating a meal, people who eat mindfully develop a greater
awareness of when they’re full and stop eating more quickly as a result. In
fact, a study looked at how yoga affected eating habits by asking people
questions that measured how “mindfully” they ate. The average BMI (body mass
index) was lower in those that practiced yoga. In addition, a lower BMI was
associated with higher scores on for mindful eating.

When people eat mindfully, they’re more likely to make healthy dietary
choices. You learn to appreciate the taste of whole foods and to be satisfied
with smaller amounts of food. That can certainly help with weight control.

The Stress Relief Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is a form of relaxational exercise. It activates the parasympathetic
nervous system, the system that opposes the sympathetic or “flight or flight”
nervous system that causes you to feel anxious and “stressed out.” It also
increases your heart rate, blood pressure and raises your blood sugar level.
The parasympathetic nervous system is often referred to as the “rest and
digest” portion of the nervous system because it promotes calmness and
relaxation. If you feel anxious or “stressed out”, you’re probably getting too
much stimulation from your sympathetic nervous system. Yoga helps to
re-establish balance between the two systems, thereby easing stress and
anxiety. Yoga also reduces cortisol, the stress hormone that increases
abdominal fat when it’s chronically elevated.

The Stress Relief Benefits of Yoga

Yoga is a form of relaxational exercise. It activates the parasympathetic
nervous system, the system that opposes the sympathetic or “flight or flight”
nervous system that causes you to feel anxious and “stressed out.” It also
increases your heart rate, blood pressure and raises your blood sugar level.
The parasympathetic nervous system is often referred to as the “rest and
digest” portion of the nervous system because it promotes calmness and
relaxation. If you feel anxious or “stressed out”, you’re probably getting too
much stimulation from your sympathetic nervous system. Yoga helps to
re-establish balance between the two systems, thereby easing stress and
anxiety. Yoga also reduces cortisol, the stress hormone that increases
abdominal fat when it’s chronically elevated.

What does this have to do with weight loss and mindful eating? A number of
people are stress-eaters that mindlessly munch on comfort snacks to help them
feel better. Comfort snacks are usually high in sugar and calories. By
relieving stress, yoga may help with weight loss and weight control. Having a
high cortisol level not only impacts your waistline – it can damage your
health. Yoga is a natural way to lower your cortisol level.

Yoga can also be a complement to a more demanding, calorie-burning fitness
routine. It’s a good recovery workout for the day after a high-intensity
training session. Plus, yoga helps to stretch the muscles you work during
strength-training session. This reduces muscle tightness and the risk of
injury. Just as you need a balance between your sympathetic and parasympathetic
nervous system, you need balance in your workouts too.

 Increase the Calorie Burn

If you want more calorie burn, power yoga is a more invigorating workout
that burns more calories and works up a sweat. On the other hand, don’t think
every workout has to be a fat-scorching, calorie-burning session. Your body
will benefit from some sessions that are more relaxing. Again, it’s all about
balance.

Can Yoga Help You Lose Weight?

Yoga can be a part of a successful weight loss program, especially when you
alternate it with higher intensity exercise sessions. It’s like yin and yang –
they balance each other and help keep you balanced. Yoga can help change your
mindset, how you think about food, and help you eat more mindfully. It also
relieves stress and even changes the relationship you have with your body. There
are lots of reasons to add yoga to your fitness schedule whether you’re trying
to lose weight or simply maintain.

For more fitness tips/advice, contact our Fitness Director and Personal
Trainer Noelle Lusardi at noelle@stepaheadwellnesscenter.com.

 

References:

Science Daily. “Regular Yoga Practice Is Associated With Mindful Eating”

WebMD. “Yoga for Weight Loss”

Yoga Journal. “Tame Your Stress”

Endocrine Society. “ENDO – Feeling Stressed? Try Yoga”

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