Hot Exercise: Good or Bad?

“Hot Exercise” is becoming a very popular thing. Whether it is Bikram yoga in 105° rooms, hot cycling, or even hot weight lifting – hot exercise is the new thing to do. But, does it really work?

The truth is that working out in a heated room doesn’t mean you are burning more fat. Sure, you are sweating more – but that doesn’t mean you are losing REAL weight. I emphasize real because, sure, if you weigh yourself before and after a hot yoga session, you will have lost weight. However, it is not weight loss that will stick; it’s just fluid loss. Or in simpler terms, you lost a bunch of water weight and after a few hours of rehydration occur – you will gain all that weight back.

The only way to truly burn fat is to get your heart rate up. Sweat isn’t a good indicator of fat loss; it just means you’re hot. A lot of the time, it becomes more difficult to work at your full potential in heat. I’ve trained individuals outside in blazing heat and their physical ability is much less than it would be in an air-conditioned gym. This is an important thing to remember. Sometimes it feels like you are accomplishing more when you sweat more, but the reality of it is, if you are hot and tired – you aren’t going to last very long in your workout. To burn fat you have to work at your fullest potential and get your heart rate up. If you aren’t able to do that in a heated room – you are not going to have the kind of weight loss and fat loss that you desire.

One real concern I have with hot exercise is the risk for dehydration. As I said before, hot exercise results in a lot of sweat. A lot of sweat means a lot of water loss. If you easily get dehydrated in a workout where heat is not a factor – I would really advise you to stay away from heated workouts. You need to make sure you are drinking enough water during hot workouts and definitely drink a lot afterwards to rehydrate your body. Dehydration can make you very sick and halt your progress – don’t put yourself in a potential high-risk situation if you know you have a problem with dehydration.

One beneficial thing about hot workouts, specifically hot yoga, is that the heat allows you to get more flexible.  Doing yoga in a heated room can be very good in helping you become more limber.  You probably notice when your body is cold, it is much harder to stretch and feel flexible.  The extra heat keeps your muscles warm, which allows you to push deeper into your yoga poses.

So, hot exercise isn’t all bad, but, it’s important to be conscious of the risks that go along with it. If you really like hot exercise and it motivates you to work harder, by all means go for it! It’s not bad for you (if you are safe about it). Just make sure you are still able to push yourself as hard as you would in a room set at a more comfortable temperature. Some people get extra motivation the more they sweat.   For those people I say, turn up the heat! But just know, more sweat does NOT mean more fat loss.

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