From hot mat Pilates and sweaty yoga through to steamy cycling and barre classes, high temperature workouts are so hot right now. Designed to warm muscles and promote detoxification, hot exercise classes are also used to enhance weight loss and improve deep breathing. While there are undoubtedly many benefits associated with heated workouts, cranking up the thermostat can add a level of risk by increasing the chance of injury and placing additional strain on the cardiovascular system.
Heated workouts became known in the western world through the popularisation of Bikram Yoga in the early 1970s. Practised in heated rooms, this form of yoga uses heat to cause sweating and promote greater flexibility. Other forms of hot yoga include Forrest Yoga, Power Yoga, and TriBalance Yoga. A number of other disciplines have also been adapted for heated conditions, including Pilates, barre workouts, and indoor cycling. The rise of suburban gyms has helped to fuel the hot workout trend, with dedicated hot rooms and classes increasingly available.
Regardless of what you are doing, working out in a heated environment can be beneficial if done with care. According to Shannon Nadj, founder of Hot Pilates in Los Angeles, "The heated room intensifies any practice, and I found it to be a perfect accelerator for Pilates ... The heat speeds up your heart rate, intensifies the workout, and makes it more challenging. It also ensures that you warm your body faster." While excessive sweating isn't necessarily associated with elevating metabolism or burning more calories, it can promote weight loss and improve detoxification in some cases.
Heated exercise classes also provide a number of mental benefits, including a deeper mind-body connection and enhanced discipline. According to yogi Loren Bassett from Hot Power Yoga classes in NYC, “The discipline, the pushing through when you are uncomfortable, and finding comfort in discomfort - if you can overcome that, then you can translate that to your life off the mat. When the body gets stronger, the mind goes along for the ride.” Professional athletes often exercise in hot climates for this very reason, with heat-trained people also able to perform better in cool conditions due to an increase in the oxygen capacity of the blood.
Working out in heated environments is not all good news, however, with elevated temperatures capable of making heat-sensitive medical conditions worse and increasing the risk of dehydration. From heat exhaustion through to life-threatening heat stroke, excessive sweating without adequate hydration can be incredibly dangerous. Hot workouts can also place a huge strain on the cardiovascular system, cause an extreme loss of electrolytes, and promote kidney damage. If you're interested in getting hot and sweaty to enhance your fitness, it's important to engage with a professional training regimen and avoid all heated exercises if you're pregnant or feeling under the weather.
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