For many people, the idea of performing any kind of exercise in temperatures ranging from 90 to 105 degrees is daunting, to say the least. The potential risks -- ranging from muscle cramps to heat exhaustion -- often outweigh the benefits. But that might just be our perception of workouts that crank up the heat. When it comes to hot yoga, there's no measurable danger, according to a new study.
Researchers found that both core body temperature and heart rate barely increased when 20 individuals took a 60-minute regular yoga class and a hot yoga class. The study was sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
“[T]his study showed that while higher sweat levels may cause participants to feel like they were working harder, heart rates showed they were actually at comparable levels whether in the regular or hot yoga class," ACE Chief Science Officer Dr. Cedric Bryant said in a statement.
The draw to hot yoga has typically been claims of expedited weight loss and improved strength and flexibility. But with less rosy side effects like extreme thirst, dizziness and pain, others have shied away and even questioned the safety of the practice.
The ACE study, albeit very small, is the first to examine what really happens in the body during a hot yoga class. However, Bryant cautioned that these findings don't necessarily apply to every variation of hot yoga. The average temperature of the hot classes studied was a balmy 92 degrees and they lasted for an hour. Classes around the country, he noted, may run as long as 90 minutes in studios up to 105 degrees or higher.
"Anytime exercise is conducted in extreme temperatures, it’s important to remain hydrated and to watch signs for overheating," he said.
Rather than forcing yourself to drink eight glasses of water a day to stay hydrated -- in and out of hot yoga classes -- experts suggest following your thirst. "When you get thirsty, the deficit of water in your body is trivial -- it's a very sensitive gauge," Dr. Stanley Goldfarb, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, told HuffPost in January. "It might be only a 1 percent reduction in your overall water. And it just requires drinking some fluid."