Exploring the Theory that Hot Workouts are Better

When we work out, we sweat. It’s a natural part of physical exertion. For some fitness buffs, the more they sweat, the more productive they feel their workout is. In fact, several modern fitness programs are based on the idea achieving maximum results by exercising in a heated facility. But is a hot workout really better for you?

Some exercise fanatics say, “Yes”, but it seems the experts say, “No”.

ABC News recently investigated the  concept of hot workouts, which were designed—in theory—to help people get in shape and lose weight more efficiently, if not faster, than a traditionally temperate workout.

One such fitness program is known as Bikram Yoga. Although it dates back to the 1970’s, it’s become a lot more popular in modern society, with Bikram Yoga studios popping up all over the US and Canada in recent few years. The concept is to spend 90 minutes performing dozens of classic yoga positions in a room that’s heated to at least 40°C (or 104°F), with a humidity level of 40% to 50%.

Another good example is the simple fact that so many people wear sweat suits when jogging or running, no matter what the temperature outside is. Some will even take it a step further, as did Bradley Cooper’s character, “Pat”, in the 2012 film, Silver Linings Playbook.

Hot Workout by Bradley Cooper

Fitness Buffs vs. Science Buffs

Although countless athletes swear by the hot workout technique, is it really doing your body good? And worse, could it be having a negative effect on your health?

As one expert interviewed by ABC positively opined, “I think there’s absolutely a psychological benefit to working out in a warmer temperature. For some people, sweating more equals a better workout. So they think they’ve done more, they’ve gotten more out of it, and they walk out of that class feeling accomplished.”

That hypothesis was clearly backed up by a throng of fitness buffs at a New York gym who live and breathe heated workout facilities. “It makes me feel awesome, like a super hero,” said one man, layered in sweat and grinning ear to ear after exercising.

But not all the testimonials were good. Another purported expert, who’s argument does at least make sense, told ABC News, “What you’re doing is you’re increasing your external core temperature, and you’re also increasing your heart rate, so although it feels harder, you’re not actually burning more energy or burning more calories.”

He went on to say that hot workouts can actually be bad for your health. “People have this perceived sense that they have more flexibility, and they go into positions that they probably shouldn’t be going into or don’t have the ability to go into.”

Furthermore, he said dehydration is a real concern during heated fitness programs. “As you’re sweating more, you’re actually dehydrating your body, so you run the risk of severe dehydration and potentially other borne illnesses.

Who’s Right?

Despite the warnings, fitness buffs are adamant that hot workouts are not only great for the body, but for the mind as well.

Oddly enough, ABC News failed to name any of its so-called experts who criticized hot workouts for being largely ineffective, if not potentially damaging, making it incredibly difficult to agree with people who may not even be educated on the matter.

I’m no physiologist myself, but in the end, I’d say it’s probably best to take both sides of the argument with a grain of salt. If hot workouts like Bikram Yoga are a strong motivation for you to exercise, make sure you are getting plenty of electrolytes and don’t stretch beyond your muscle’s limitations.

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