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Is Yoga or Running a better Workout?

I’ve been asked the questions, ‘Do I have to run or exercise intensely to get a good workout?  Can’t I just do yoga?’  Unfortunately (or fortunately), the answers to these questions, respectively are yes…and yes.  Different exercise types have different purposes and different benefits.  And each of our bodies, to remain fit, requires our training it in different ways.  One type of exercise may not accomplish all goals of being physically fit: a healthy heart, strong muscles and bones, and safety from injury.  As a result, it is important to do enough types of exercise to reap all the physical benefits mentioned above.  Not sure what exercises to do for which of these goals?  Here is a quick cheat sheet.

Aerobic Exercise: To have a strong and healthy heart…one that is warded against heart disease…you need to do aerobic exercise.  This means that you need to exert yourself enough so that your heart rate, while exercising, is 65% to 85% of your Maximum Heart Rate.  If you don’t get your heart rate up within this level…’you just ain’t working hard enough’.  I don’t care what you do.  It could be running, it could be swimming, it could be dancing, it even could be having sex…whatever it is, your heart rate needs to be 65% – 85% of your MHR for 20 – 30 minutes, at least 3 times a week, to see the heart healthy benefits.  Typical types include:

  • Running
  • Walking (@ least 4 to 4.5 mph)
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Elliptical Training
  • Yoga (Ashtanga, Power and Vinyasa)

Strength Training: To keep your muscles and bones strong…warding off arthritis and osteoporosis…you need to do strength training.  This comes in a variety of formats.  Whatever you do, however, you need to train your muscles enough so that they are really tired by the end of each session.  To see real benefits, make sure you are strength training 2 to 3 times a week for about 30 to 40 minutes.   Typical types of strength training include:

Flexibility Training: To keep your body flexible and limber…reducing risk of injuries and pain in your joints and muscles…you need to do flexibility training.  Translation…stretching.  You should always aim to stretch every muscle after any exercise routine.  Typical types of flexibility training include:

So next time you think that yoga 5 times a week will be enough, think about what it is really doing.  Is it getting your heart rate up?  If not, you should be doing more aerobic training to strengthen your heart.  Additionally, running your heart out every day is great for heart health, but are you keeping your muscles limber?  If not, start incorporating some stretching in!  And lastly, if you are a dumbbell god/goddess, are you incorporating enough cardio and stretching in to round out your workout?

Have you found a good workout that tackles two or three of these goals?

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Posted in Brett's Blog, Fitness Tagged with: , , , , ,
  • Maria Castro-Dara

    Hi Brett,
    Great article, thanks for posting. I am a HUGE yoga fan, so it’s nice to see that it fits in the 3 categories (though of course the qualifications for each exercise category are dependent on yoga style.)


  • Hi Brett,

    You have a lot of nice information here. I am looking for teachers to help create exercise and yoga DVDs. I am the Yoga Video and DVD Guy at and want to expand into other fitness areas.

    Please contact me if you are interested.


  • Adam

    great article Brett, I love yoga and am glad to see it in your blog.

    Also glad that you distinguished between the styles. As you stated and as Maria noted above, yoga can range from a mild and relaxing series to pretty intense aerobic/strength training.

    I know of one yoga teacher who trained for a marathon using yoga exclusively – obviously the intense versions. So the right type will definitely substitute for a run in getting the cardio challenge you mentioned.

    Go to a Bikram studio and hold a challenging pose for 2 minutes in a 95 degree room and I guarantee your heart rate will hit the “good substitute for a run” level- and without the repeated impact stress on joints.

  • Marty Sauer

    When I do vinyasa yoga my face gets very red at the end of the class. I feel fine other than that. I’m 60 years. Is that too much for me? I also do slow flow vinyasa/astanga yoga 4 or 5 times a week. Please reply

  • Hi Brett,

    This is a nice post! I wonder what other types of yoga can you best recommend for athletes?