Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Examining the Energy Cost and Intensity Level of Prenatal Yoga

Academic journal article International Journal of Yoga

Examining the Energy Cost and Intensity Level of Prenatal Yoga

Article excerpt

Byline: Nathan. Peters, Rebecca. Schlaff

Context: A popular form of pregnancy physical activity (PA) is prenatal yoga. However, little is known about the intensity and energy cost of this practice. Aims: To examine the energy cost and intensity level of prenatal yoga. Methods: Pregnant women in a prenatal yoga class (n = 19) wore a Sense Wear Armband during eleven 60 min classes each, and self-reported demographic variables, height and weight, prepregnancy weight, and PA behaviors and beliefs. Sense Wear Armband data included kilocalories, metabolic equivalent (MET) values, and time spent in various intensities. Descriptive statistics and frequencies were utilized to describe energy expenditure and intensity. Results: Energy expenditure averaged 109 [+ or -] 8 kcals, and the average MET value was 1.5 [+ or -] 0.02. On average, 93% and 7% of classes were sedentary and moderate intensity PA, respectively. Conclusions: Time spent in a prenatal yoga class was considered to be primarily a sedentary activity. Future research should utilize larger samples, practice type, and skill level to increase generalizability.


As indicated by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), over the past several years, exercise during pregnancy has dramatically gained popularity among women.[sup][1] Healthy pregnant women should get at least 150 min of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When working to meet

these recommendations, the importance of understanding the intensity level of various forms of physical activity (PA) among this population cannot be understated.

Research indicates that participating in exercise during pregnancy is associated with decreased risk of several birth complications.[sup][2],[3],[4],[5] Unfortunately, due to the many physiological changes occurring in the body during pregnancy (such as nausea, fatigue, and weight gain), many women tend to adopt sedentary habits,[sup][6] which has been linked to several adverse pregnancy outcomes, including pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes, and several others.[sup][7] Therefore, enjoyable forms of PA must be identified to help women engage in recommended amounts of PA. Recently, prenatal yoga has increased in popularity as a form of recommended PA and the mind-body-based techniques associated with it have been indicated in birth preparation, including the use of breathing patterns and postures.

When quantifying the relative intensity of PA, ACSM utilizes several methods; one being metabolic equivalents (METs). Recording METs is a standardized way to describe the intensity at which someone is performing work. Light intensity PA is defined as requiring <3 METs, moderate as 3–<6 METs, and vigorous as ≥6 METs. Although data regarding the energy intensity of prenatal yoga are limited, data for energy intensity of traditional and nonprenatal yoga are abundant. Research suggests that hatha yoga, a commonly used form of yogaemphasizing a system of physical postures for balancing, stretching, and strengthening the body,[sup][8] reaches a low level of PA with a mean value of 1–2 METs.[sup][9],[10],[11] Additional studies suggest that hatha yoga does not meet the intensity level necessary to count toward recommendations for "levels of PA for improving or maintaining health or cardiovascular fitness," but may contribute some benefit to sedentary individuals.[sup][9]

As a result of the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy, it is possible that the metabolic cost of yoga may differ from the nonpregnant state. However, despite the increasing popularity of prenatal yoga and its potential role in improving birth outcomes,[sup][12] little is known about its energy costs, potentially deeming it unfit to be recommended as a form of PA that contributes toward meeting PA recommendations. …

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