Hot Workouts – Detox Magic or Dangerous Hoax? [Body Blog]
Would you work out in a 105 degree room? How about 110? Hot workouts are all the rage in gyms across the country, especially in New York and Los Angeles, where some gyms are adding heat to just about every class.
You’ve probably heard of Bikram yoga, or some of the other hot yoga styles that have been popping up over the past few decades. But now, you can take classes in Pilates, the Bar Method, cycling, martial arts and more — all while roasting in a room that’s 100 degrees or even hotter.
Devotees of these classes love them because they leave every workout dripping with sweat. They see quick weight loss results, and think that all the sweat is helping them detox. But are they really doing that much good? Or are these benefits outweighed by the possible risks of exercising in extreme heat?
Experts have debated the safety of Bikram and other hot yoga styles for years. Bikram is practiced in a 105 degree room, with at least 40 percent humidity. First of all, doing intense exercise at temperatures that high puts you at risk for severe dehydration, or even heat exhaustion and heat stroke. In order to remain properly hydrated during a Bikram class, you would have to drink 4 ounces of water every 15 minutes. However, hardly any students drink that much water during class. Most of the weight loss experienced by people who work out in the heat is just water weight. And that’s not the kind of weight you want to lose. It isn’t uncommon for students to faint during hot yoga classes – I don’t know about you, but that scares me.
The other problem with exercising in extreme heat is that it makes it very easy for you to overstretch. The warmer your surroundings are, the more flexible the tissues in your body become. So, in some ways a warmer room can be good for your muscles. Heat allows you to stretch more fully and deeply. However, when the temperature is extreme, it becomes too easy to push your muscles too far. This is a serious problem, because your muscles work like levers. It’s good to be flexible, but the more you stretch, the more your muscles literally lengthen. When a muscle gets too long, it becomes weaker and less efficient.
Even more dangerous is the risk to your ligaments, the tissues that connect bones to other bones. Once ligaments are stretched, they don’t return back to their original shape. In normal temperatures, your ligaments would hardly stretch at all. But in the heat, they become more pliable. If you stretch out your ligaments, it can lead to weak, loose joints, which put you at a serious risk for injury.
There are some benefits to exercising in the heat. It’s true that hot workouts are more difficult, and make you work harder. Dr. Douglas Casa, a professor at the University of Connecticut and an expert on heat and athletics, told the New York Times that the benefits stop past 100 degrees. Any hotter than that, and you’re only increasing your risk for illness or injury, not getting a better workout. Dr. Casa also called the detox claim a “hoax,” saying that there are no proven benefits from sweating more.
I don’t do hot workouts. I hate feeling desperately overheated, so a hot workout class sounds like a nightmare to me. But I know lots of people who swear by Bikram yoga.
What do YOU think? Are hot workouts worth the risks?
Garnet is a student at Columbia University in New York City. She is “that person” who starts dancing at a party when everyone else is standing around, and if there were a Facebook stalking Olympics, she would be a gold medalist. She also loves cheesy 90s music, and almost died of happiness when Vanilla Ice retweeted her. Once. Follow her on Twitter @garnethenderson.
[Lead image via Peter Bernik/Shutterstock]