Do yoga and pilates count as cardio?

The question: Do the yoga and pilates classes I do count as cardio? In some classes I really feel my heart pumping.

The answer: Let’s first clarify how we are using the word “cardio.” For the sake of simplicity, fitness professionals usually divide training into threee categories: cardio, strength and flexibility. Cardio activities are understood as activities like biking or walking, whereas flexibility training is understood as activities like stretching and yoga. In reality, activities exist on a continuum.

Most activities, except for high-intensity exercises lasting less than two minutes, are considered cardiovascular since they use oxygen as fuel. Some activities just fall farther along the continuum, offering more of a cardiovascular challenge than others.

The cardiovascular demands placed on the body depend on the type of activity you are doing and the intensity and duration it is done for. So, all yoga counts as cardio, since you are using oxygen as fuel, but walking and running tend to put progressively more cardiovascular demands on the body then a yoga class.

That said, if you place a heart-rate monitor on a slow walker versus a power-yoga participant, the yoga participant may be maintaining a higher heart rate for longer, and therefore stressing their cardiovascular system more.

I suggest that you try wearing a heart rate monitor to your next yoga class. Monitor if your heart rate rises to 60 to 85 per cent of you max, and if so, for how long. Different types of yoga will elicit different results.

Aim to do low-intensity movement that adds up to 60 minutes of movement per day. Many yoga classes will fall under this type of cardio activity. A great way to ensure you are moving enough is to buy a pedometer and aim to accumulate 10,000 steps per day.

In addition, you should do three weekly workouts in which you maintain a heart rate of 60 to 85 per cent of your max for 20 to 30 minutes. Some power-yoga classes may fall under this type of cardio activity.

Trainer’s tip: If your yoga class doesn’t help you maintain an elevated heart rate for 30 minutes, don’t worry. When doing yoga, don’t fixate on getting enough cardio; it offers other equally important health benefits such as increased strength, mobility, flexibility and relaxation.

Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is

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