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Can yoga replace strength training?

Asked by Melissa, Maryland

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Can yoga replace strength training? I switched from doing two 40-minute full-body strength training routines to doing two hourlong power yoga classes each week. I'm concerned about losing muscle (and gaining weight). I don't necessarily feel the need to GAIN muscle, but don't want to lose the "toned" look and don't want my metabolism to slow due to muscle loss. I'm in my late 20s.

Thanks!

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Diet and Fitness Expert Dr. Melina Jampolis Physician Nutrition Specialist

Expert answer:

Hi Melissa. This is a great question. Even though you are young, your concern about losing muscle and slowing your metabolism is a good one. Muscle loss begins in your 30s and continues at a rate of about 3 percent per decade without adequate exercise and good nutrition. The latest government guidelines recommend two days of full-body strength training for optimal health and weight maintenance. Since I'm not a yoga expert, I consulted with nationally renowned yoga expert and author of "Yoga with Weights for Dummies" (Wiley Publishers), Sherri Baptiste.

According to Baptiste, yoga is naturally weight bearing in many of the postures, as you lift limbs and hold poses in the process of the practice. In addition, yoga has a unique "feel-good" and stress management component that may help prevent or relieve depression, anxiety and numerous other associated medical problems. The athletic system of a "two-hour-long power yoga" class is a calorie-burning, vigorous, endurance and strength-building kind of yoga practice, but not all classes are that way. At your age, you will probably not lose muscle tone (and gain weight) doing power yoga, but for long-term health and weight maintenance, the best option would be to include both yoga and strength training in your regular exercise program.

If you don't want to add more time to your exercise regimen, you might consider adopting the "hybrid practice" of "yoga with weights," which brings the two disciplines together. In this practice, one-, three-, or five-pound weights are used in the exercises to stretch the muscles, release tension in the muscles and engage the muscles in the deep core of your body that are used for balance and stability, which is particularly important as people age. In fact, the most recent government physical activity guidelines recommend stretching, balance and stability-related practices in addition to strength training and cardiovascular exercise for people 65 years and older.

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