A few small studies have suggested an association between yoga and weight loss, but the results are inconclusive. Nonetheless, yoga may be a useful addition to an overall weight-loss plan that includes regular aerobic exercise and a calorie-controlled, healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and other plant products.
To lose weight, you want to reduce the calories you take in and increase the calories you burn. Most types of yoga don't have the same level of calorie-burning power as aerobic exercise does. For example, a person who weighs 160 pounds (73 kilograms) will burn 183 calories in an hour of doing basic (hatha) yoga, compared with 314 calories in an hour of brisk walking or 402 calories in an hour of water aerobics.
Even though yoga is not a power-burner of calories, it may have additional benefits that contribute to better overall weight management. These benefits may include:
- Improved mindfulness of your body and your ability to regulate your diet
- Reduced stress, which can contribute to poor eating choices
- A supportive social network in yoga class that may promote overall healthy choices
- Improved self-esteem and mood
- Reduced back or joint pain that may prohibit additional exercise
If you want to do yoga, the smart play is to include it in an exercise plan that includes aerobic activities, such as biking, jogging, brisk walking, water aerobics or swimming.
Jan. 15, 2019
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- Bernstein AM, et al. Yoga in the management of overweight and obesity. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2013;8:33.
- Lauche R, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis on the effects of yoga on weight-related outcomes. Preventive Medicine. 2016;87:213.
- Hensrud DD, et al. Energy, calories and weight. In: The Mayo Clinic Diet. 2nd ed. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2017.
- Hensrud DD, et al. Burning even more calories. In: The Mayo Clinic Diet. 2nd ed. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2017.
- Ross A, et al. A different weight loss experience: A qualitative study exploring the behavioral, physical, and psychosocial changes associated with yoga that promote weight loss. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;2016:2914745. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2016/2914745/. Accessed Dec. 27, 2018.