It’s common to think of activities like stretching, bending over and touching your toes, or getting into a downward-facing dog as something you should do after working out or when first waking up. Often, these can feel like an afterthought to health rather than the main event—especially if your goal is to lose weight or track calories burned during workouts.
Now is the time to add stretching to your wellness routine. Even though it doesn’t burn as many calories as working out in the gym or jogging, it significantly impacts your health.
To maintain flexibility and joint health, the ACSM recommends adults stretch each major muscle group at least two days per week. Although it may not seem like much, stretching for just ten minutes on average can burn 27 calories without breaking too much of a sweat.
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Can Stretching Help with Weight Loss?
To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in—this is called a calorie deficit. Working out does play a part in burning calories, but it’s not the only thing—exercise alone has only “a very small role,” according to one study. However, stretching–like all movement–burn some amount of calories, and when combined with other workout plans that include things like HIIT or swimming, it can help maintain this gap so that weight loss may be achieved.
Even though calorie burn and weight loss are great, they shouldn’t be your main reasons for stretching. Instead, stretching provides many health benefits, like reducing stress and making your muscles stronger.
Exercises that are more strenuous, such as a 30-minute HIIT class or running at a 10-minute mile pace for 30 minutes, will burn more calories because they have higher MET values (8.5 and 9.8, respectively). For example, if you weigh 185 pounds and do a spin class, you can expect to burn an average of 340 calories in total. If you go for a run instead, you may burn deeper into your reserves with almost 400 Calories burned—nearly four times what 88 Calories would be cashed in from mild stretching over the same span of time!
5 Benefits of Stretching
Not only does stretching improve flexibility, but when done regularly and as part of a fitness routine, it can help with weight loss and mental well-being. The following are some of the advantages of including regular stretching in your weekly routine:
Tone Your Muscles
When you think of toning your muscles, chances are you think of lifting weights. However, stretching can also be an effective way to tone your muscles. By lengthening your muscles, you can create a leaner appearance and improve your flexibility. Additionally, stretching can help to reduce the risk of injuries in the future.
To get the most out of stretching, be sure to focus on problem areas such as the arms, legs, and back. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, and repeat each stretch several times. You should also focus on deep breathing to help improve circulation and relax your muscles. With a consistent stretching routine, you can start to see results in as little as two weeks.
Help Increase Blood Flow
Stretching can also help to increase blood flow and deliver more oxygen to muscles. This is especially important during cardiovascular activities, such as running or bicycling, when muscles need constant oxygen to maintain a steady pace.
In addition, stretching can help to improve your range of motion and prevent stiffness. As a result, it is an important part of any fitness routine. If you want to get the most out of your workout, be sure to take the time to stretch before you begin.
When it comes to reducing stress, there are plenty of options available. For example, some people find that listening to music or spending time in nature helps them to relax, while others prefer to exercise or meditate. However, one simple and effective way to reduce stress is to stretch. Stretching increases blood flow and flexibility, both of which help to reduce muscle tension.
As a result, it can leave you feeling both physically and mentally refreshed. So the next time you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to stretch your body and see how much better you feel.
Boost Your Metabolism
Most people think of metabolism as the process by which our bodies convert food into energy. And while that’s true, there’s much more to it. Our metabolism is a complex series of chemical reactions that occur in our cells. It plays a critical role in everything from breathing and heart rate to digestion and brain function. So it’s no surprise that keeping our metabolism running smoothly is essential for good health. One way to do that is by stretching regularly.
Stretching also has a direct impact on our metabolism. When we stretch, we help to increase blood flow and circulation, which in turn helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to our cells. This not only helps to promote cell growth and repair, but it also helps to boost our metabolism. In fact, one study found that just 30 minutes of stretching can increase your metabolic rate by up to 13 percent! So if you’re looking for a simple way to boost your metabolism, add some stretches to your daily routine.
Increase Your Range of Motion
When you stretch, your muscles elongate and become more pliable. This allows you to move your joints through a greater range of motion, which can help you perform everyday tasks with ease. Additionally, stretching helps to reduce stiffness and pain by increasing blood flow to the muscles. So if you’re looking for a way to improve your mobility, start incorporating some stretches into your daily routine. You may be surprised at just how much of a difference it can make.
5 Stretches to Help Burn Calories
So now that we know all the benefits of stretching, let’s take a look at some specific stretches that can help you burn calories. Remember, to get the most benefit from these stretches, be sure to focus on deep breathing and hold each stretch.
If you’re looking to tone your legs, this stretch is for you. It targets your glutes, inner thighs, calves, and quads all in one movement.
- To Perform This Stretch: Start by standing with your legs wide open. Lunge to your right leg, making a ninety-degree angle, and extend your left leg as much as you comfortably can. Hold the stretch for fifteen to twenty seconds before repeating it on the other side. Aim to do at least twenty of these stretches on each side for the best results.
Inner Thigh Stretches
If you’re struggling with pockets of fat on your inner thighs, this butterfly stretch will help tone the muscles in that area and reduce cellulite.
- To Perform This Stretch: Start by sitting on a yoga mat with your back straight. Next, bring the soles of your feet together and drop your knees slightly. Flutter them like butterfly wings for at least one minute, and then repeat the process at least five more times.
Downward Facing Dog
This one stretch works your arms, shoulders, back, and hamstrings. The key to this pose is maintaining good posture and holding it for as long as possible – the longer you stay in the pose, the more calories you’ll burn!
- To Perform This Stretch: Starting on your hands and knees, slowly lift your hips until your body forms an upside-down V. With each inhale, press your heels towards the floor and raise your head slightly; with each exhale, relax back into the start position. After holding this pose for 15 deep breaths, lower yourself to Child’s Pose or whatever feels good for you.
Sitting Side Bending
Stretching your side and lower back muscles daily is essential to avoid tension and discomfort. Sitting for long periods of time regularly can cause the muscles in these areas to tense up, leading to potential backaches.
- To Perform This Stretch: Cross your legs on a yoga mat. Raise your right hand, and then bend over to the left side as far as possible. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds before repeating it on the other side. Perform at least 20 of these bends on each side.
Triceps stretch is a great way to tone your arms, shoulders, and traps. It helps relax your upper arm muscles and can also help improve your posture.
- To Perform This Stretch: Gently raise your arms towards the sky. Next, pull your left elbow towards your head with your right hand. Hold it there for 20 seconds, and then repeat on the other side. Do this once more for a total of five to six times.
Stretching is an excellent way to improve your flexibility, mobility, and overall health. It can also help you burn calories and tone your muscles. So if you’re looking for a low-impact but still effective workout, be sure to add some stretches to your daily routine. You may be surprised at just how much of a difference it can make.