Health

Yes, stretching can help you lose weight—start with these 5 options

Yes, stretching can help you lose weight—start with these 5 options

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Sounds a lot better than hours of cardio, right?

If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s easy to hone in on workouts that burn as many calories as possible. For many people, that means cardio, cardio, cardio. While it’s true that cardio can help burn calories and contribute to weight loss, trainers say it would be a mistake to make it your only focus. Strength training and rest also play an important role in losing weight in a healthy way. And you know what else it does? Stretching.

Many people don’t think that stretching contributes to weight loss, but there are several ways in which it does just that. Here, trainers explain exactly how and give five simple stretches to incorporate into your routine.

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How does stretching relate to weight loss?

“The reason why stretching is so important in weight loss is the simple fact that stretching will keep your joints and muscles sensitive good“, he says Coby Hopkins, CPT, personal trainer and corporate director of training and exercise in StretchU, a full-body assisted stretching company that provides one-on-one assisted stretching. “If your body feels good, you’ll be much more motivated to exercise and stick with your program,” he adds.

This makes perfect sense when you think about it. It can be tempting to jump into a new workout routine and work hard every day. But this does not allow the body to recover properly. And when you’re not feeling well, you’re more likely to give up on your workout goals altogether. “While there are many factors that contribute to how efficient you are at burning calories, having strong and happy muscles can play a major role,” exercise medicine specialist Melissa McGuire, MES, says. “Your muscles are happy when they feel good flexibility and healthy range of motion of each joint.”

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In addition to keeping the body feeling good, both coaches say stretching can help muscle growth. “When we lift weights, we tear the muscles. To actually build muscle, we need to recover from that exercise, and stretching helps enhance that process,” says Hopkins.

He adds that consistent stretching will allow someone to move through their exercises with a greater range of motion. “If you can lift the same weight with a greater range of motion over time, that will lead to more muscle growth,” he says.

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Different types of stretching to incorporate into your routine

McGuire and Hopkins explain that there are different types of stretching that have slightly different benefits: isometric-active stretching, dynamic-active stretching, passive stretching, and proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, which are explained in more detail below:

  • Isometric-Active Stretching: “This type of stretch is like holding the hardest part of a yoga posture,” says McGuire. “Some of the muscles are trained to relax, but the opposite muscles are contracted tightly.” She explains that the benefit of this is that the stretched muscles relax, which increases the range of motion in the joint. In addition, the retaining muscles also become stronger. “It’s a win for both strength and flexibility, which helps keep the body in balance,” says McGuire.

  • Dynamic-active stretching: McGuire explains that dynamic active stretching is movement-oriented. For example, do 10 reps deep squats. This type of stretching, she says, stretches the muscles and loosens them.

  • Passive Stretching: Passive stretching, McGuire explains, is when you hold a stretch. “Your muscles will eventually relax, but you don’t have to work on contracting anything,” she says. Although McGuire says passive stretching is the least effective for weight loss, she says it’s still useful for helping muscles recover from active workouts.

  • Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF): “PNF is a stretch where you go through a series of contractions and releases to increase your range of motion over time,” says Hopkins, adding that it can be great before or after a workout. This type of stretch “tricks” the nervous system into resisting pressure, which helps the muscles relax so you get a deeper stretch.

5 stretches to incorporate into your routine

McGuire recommends doing some gentle stretching every day. It can be especially helpful to stretch before and after exercise. “We usually recommend dynamic stretching before exercise and [passive] stretching afterwards,” says Hopkins. “Dynamic stretching is great for lubricating the joints and getting the blood moving. [Passive] stretching involves holding a stretch for 30 to 60 seconds while focusing on long, deep breaths, which is great for recovering from intense exercise.

Here are five stretches to try related to the different types of stretching that trainers say can help with weight loss:

1. Plank Pose

The plank hold is an example of isometric active stretching, which McGuire says builds strength and flexibility. To do a plank, place your hands directly under your shoulders while placing your toes on the ground, a few inches apart. Hold the position for 20 seconds, gradually working up to one minute if you can.

2. Seizures when walking

Walking lunges are dynamic active stretching. Start in a standing position. Step forward with your right leg, bending the knee to 90 degrees. Pause in the jump position for a few seconds. Bring your left foot forward to meet your right foot. Now step forward with your left foot and move into a lunge position. Repeat for 10 kicks per leg.

3. High kicks

This is another example of dynamic active stretching. To do high kicks, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Raise one leg straight up as high as you can. Extend your toes with the opposite hand while keeping your neck and back straight. Bring your leg back and repeat with the other leg. Do 10 high kicks.

4. Attack of the runner

For a passive stretch, try a runner’s jump by starting in a standing position and stepping one foot back behind you. Keep the other leg bent at 90 degrees. Place your hands on either side of the front leg. Hold for a few breaths and then switch, bringing the opposite leg forward.

5. Hamstring strain

A hamstring strain is a common PNF strain. Lie on the floor with one foot on the ground. Stretch the other leg up toward the ceiling as you wrap both arms around your thigh. Hold for 20 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.

next, Experts share 13 reasons why people struggle with weight loss.

Sources

  • Coby Hopkins, CPT, personal trainer and corporate director of training and exercise at StretchU

  • Melissa McGuire, MES, medical exercise specialist


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