Can Stretching Help You Lose Weight?

Can Stretching Help You Lose Weight?

If I don’t get my sweat on, how am I going to lose weight?

I’ll admit; I was an exercise maniac right out of college. I’d literally work out to burn as many calories as I would eat that day. Note: This is NOT healthy!

I finally realized that it wasn’t necessary to torture myself and that this type of physical stress may actually hinder my health instead of helping me achieve a svelte figure. Thank goodness! This was not only exhausting, it was unsustainable and extremely dangerous. What I wish I had known back then is that a balance of aerobic activity, some resistance training, and some relaxation can go a long way in helping to meet or sustain your goal weight.

Since we know that burning calories is required to lose weight, relaxation - or just a simple Sunday afternoon stretch - might not be a go-to choice to help shed some pounds. However, a restorative “work-out” just might be what your body is craving!

1. Yoga for weight loss

  • You may not burn as many calories doing yoga as you would in a cross fit class, but you sure will work up a sweat. The puddles on my yoga mat after a session often amaze me. While the exact mechanism is unknown, practicing yoga has been shown by researchers to work wonders for weight loss and weight management. Here’s a few theories on why this may be:
    • Increases body awareness - As you practice yoga, you are fully aware of your breath, your body’s positioning, and your strength. This helps build self-confidence. When you love your body, it just so happens weight loss or weight management becomes second nature without having to diet.
    • Physical exertion - Ok, you got me! You must move in order to lose weight. And yoga provides just enough movement to build up some heat and burn a few calories. Holding poses helps strengthen and build muscle (which burns more calories during rest) and the active flow styles like power Vinyasa boosts cardiovascular fitness, allowing you to move at ease and for longer duration.
    • Specific poses are known to aid in the proper functioning of your organs. For example, twisting poses promote healthy digestion and detoxification and forward bends benefit your thyroid gland and abdominal organs. A properly functioning body is critical for weight management.

2. Intuitive Eating

  • When we become gentler and more in tune with our body, we start to understand what foods fuel it and make us feel alive versus what foods drain our energy and cause cravings. Looking inward at how foods affect our body is the underlying idea behind Intuitive Eating. Eating when you’re truly hungry (not emotionally hungry) and stopping when your almost full, as well as enjoying food without the diet mentality are a few of the principles of eating intuitively. If you’d like to learn more about this process, I highly recommend reading Evelyn Tribole MS, RD’s book by the same name.

3. Stress Reduction

  • Stress comes in multiple forms. What some folks may not know is that frequent, high intensity exercises can also contribute to your total stress load and difficulty reaching your weight loss goal. Exercising too hard and for too long may lead to a consistently high level of the hormone cortisol, which can hinder proper thyroid function (your main metabolic regulator), increase appetite and carb cravings, and contribute to increased fat deposits. Even worse, research shows that people with an already high stress level from work, kids, etc. (isn’t that all of us?) actually release more cortisol during an intense bout of exercise than someone starting a sweat sesh with lower stress levels. Low intensity activities actually have been shown to reduce cortisol and stress. Alternating relaxation and stretching with some high intensity training could be just the balance you need.

4. Muscle recovery and rest

  • We’ve all heard how important sleep is for keeping our bodies in top-notch condition (7-8 hours each night). This allows our body to produce enough human growth hormone (hGh) to function properly– to build and repair muscles and tissue as well as mobilize fat. In addition, rest helps regulate our metabolic hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Switch it up every now and then; for every hard workout with strenuous cardio and/or weights, do two low intensity days, either a day off with some pampering, flowing with a yoga session, gentle cycling, or walking. With sufficient time for your muscles to re-energize, your body will be ready to train harder and longer the next time you’re ready to hit the gym – a recipe for weight loss success!

5. Lengthens and strengthens the muscles

  • Flexibility is one of the four main components of “fitness,” along with muscular strength, endurance, and balance. Flexibility can be looked at as the foundation to fitness because it allows you to tap into the other three. Long, strong, lean muscles allow you to run faster, jump higher, stand taller, and burn calories more efficiently without getting injured. In addition, stretching makes the muscles appear leaner and longer!

Did you know that successful weight loss is actually 70-80% reliant on diet, while the rest depends on exercise? According to a 2012 National Institutes of Health funded study in the journal Obesity, they found that diet alone was responsible for more weight loss than exercise alone. Adding in some physical activity and adopting more moderate lifestyle changes was suggested for sustaining weight loss. This study reinforces that both components are critical for the best results; but no need to spend hours in the gym, just get up and get your move on! And remember to keep on Blasting!

Registered Dietitian

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