Acute Physiologic Effects of Performing Yoga in The Heat on Energy Expenditure, Range of Motion, and Inflammatory Biomarkers

Int J Exerc Sci. 2020 May 1;13(3):802-817. eCollection 2020.


Performing yoga in a heated environment (HY) is a popular exercise mode purported to improve range of motion (ROM), body composition, and aerobic fitness. The purpose of this investigation was to compare a session of HY to room temperature yoga (RTY) with regards to ROM, oxygen consumption, caloric expenditure, and biomarkers of acute stress and inflammation. Sixteen experienced yoga practitioners (F14, M2; 40 ± 11yr; 22.6 ± 1.8 kg/m2) completed a 1-hour standardized Bikram sequence in HY (105°F, 40°C) and RTY (74°F, 23.3°C) conditions (order of conditions randomized, humidity standardized at 40%). Intra-exercise metabolic gas exchange and heart rate (HR) was monitored using a metabolic cart. ROM measures were taken pre and post-exercise at the elbow, shoulder, hip, and knee. Cytokines interleukin 6,10 (IL-6, IL-10) and tumor-necrosis-factor alpha (TNF-α) were analyzed from blood samples collected pre- and 30-minutes post-exercise. Intra-exercise metabolic gas exchange and heart rate (HR) was monitored using a metabolic cart. Both bouts elicited similar acute changes in ROM although HY elicited a greater increase in hip abduction (RTYΔ° = 2.3 ± 1.3|HYΔ° = 6.6 ± 1.5; p < 0.05). Mean VO2, peak VO2, %VO2max, HR, and kcal expenditure did not differ between conditions. RER was lower during the HY (RTY = 0.95 ± 0.02| HY = 0.89 ± 0.02; p < 0.05) with a concomitant elevation in fat oxidation (RTY = 0.05 ± 0.01|HY = 0.09 ± 0.01, g·min-1; p < 0.05) and decrease in carbohydrate oxidation (RTY = 0.51 ± 0.04|HY = 0.44 ± 0.03, g·min-1; p < 0.05). Serum IL-6 was increased (15.5 ± 8.0-fold) following HY only (p < 0.05). HY does not significantly elevate aerobic energy cost compared to RTY but may acutely increase fat substrate utilization and hip ROM. Future studies remain needed to establish dose-response relationships for including HY or RTY into well-rounded fitness programs.

Keywords: Yoga; bikram yoga; fitness; hot yoga; range of motion.