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Why Yoga Shouldn't Be Your ~ Only ~ Form of Exercise

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If you've ever wondered whether practicing yoga a few days a week is enough exercise, we've got an answer for you — and you may not like it. Sadly, based on a comprehensive study that was just released by the American College of Sports Medicine in conjunction with the American Heart Association, yoga alone will not get you all the cardiovascular exercise you need. Bummer.

The AHA's exercise guidelines for overall cardiovascular health are 30 minutes of moderate-intense aerobic activity five days per week or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three times per week, plus moderate to intense strengthening activity two days per week. This new study collected all the data from past studies about yoga, specifically gathering information how many calories each move burns as well at its metabolic intensity (METS). In order for an exercise to be considered "moderately intense" and count towards your 30 minutes, it must be between three and six METS. Most yoga poses were under that number, classifying them as "light" intensity. Because of this, it's unlikely that a regular yoga class would get you the amount of moderate-intensity exercise you need to add up to those 150 minutes you need per week. Sigh. (For a yoga workout that kicks it up a notch, check out this yoga meets martial arts workout that'll get you seriously sweaty.)

There's some good news for dedicated yogis here, though. While getting your flow on won't get you closer to meeting your cardiovascular fitness requirements, the study does confirm that there are other significant benefits to the practice. Regularly doing yoga provides some pretty awesome things for your body, like building strength, balance, and flexibility, as well as for your mind with its ever-important element of stress reduction. Plus, there were a few poses that did make it into the moderate intensity category, like Surya Namaskar (AKA sun salutation), which could be repeated several times to help you get your heart rate up. Technically, you could do sun salutations for 10 minutes at a time three times a day to work up to your 30 minutes of activity, but it would likely get quite repetitive. So, if you're trying to be mindful of your cardiovascular fitness, it's a good idea to mix in some more high-intensity workouts (hello boxing and HIIT!) with your vinyasa flow class.

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