How safe is the 'hot fitness' trend?


by KING 5 HealthLink

Posted on May 15, 2014 at 4:50 AM

The temperature outside may be climbing, but the hottest fitness trends are turning up the heat indoors. But will you get a better workout?  And are these sauna-like classes even safe?

Cycling, pilates, even kettlebells in rooms ranging from 82 to 95 degrees. The trend started with hot yoga and has spread.

“When you take a heated spinning class, you feel like you get so much more out of it. You sweat, your blood is pumping. It’s amazing,” said Jen Ellenburg, hot cycling participant

Trainer Mimi Benz says there are many benefits to turning up the heat.

“I mean, obviously, your heart rate’s going to increase because it’s a heated environment, which yields more of a caloric burn,” said Benz, owner of Hot Cycling Studio.

But not everyone approves.

“Taking exercise programs and putting them into a gym in a hot environment to me is kind of a scary proposition,“ said Dr. Walter Thompson, Fellow at American College of Sports Medicine

Dr. Thompson helped develop the American College of Sports Medicine Guidelines for health and fitness facilities, including temperature.

“The standard is about 72 degrees Fahrenheit and about 40 percent humidity,” said Dr. Thompson.

He says hot rooms could have a physical impact.

“Well the interesting question is what kind of physiological reaction do people have in the heat? And that is an increased body temperature, an increased heart rate, an increased blood pressure,” said Dr. Thompson.

He ‘s concerned about those with risk factors like cardiovascular or respiratory problems.

Proponents say preparation is key.

“You put on a pair of shoes and run 26 miles and you’re out of shape, you put yourself into danger, don’t you?  You’ve got to be in shape whenever you do any kind of exercise and you need to control your own personal effort,” said King Rollins, owner of Hot Yoga and Pilates Studio.

Jen Ellenburg says she’s a convert now.

“I’m addicted to that feeling of sweating. It makes you feel so pure,” she said.

There are also claims about detoxing benefits from these heated classes.

Dr. Thompson hasn’t seen any science to back that up, but he does say muscles may stretch more easily in a heated environment.