Stretching is an essential part of a well-rounded exercise routine. Whether your main calorie burner is weight lifting, yoga, or cardio-focused, you should remember to incorporate a good amount of stretching into your day-to-day routine. While many folks simply stretch for the flexibility benefits, these benefits go much further than you might think.
Believe it or not, you can actually lose weight by doing a stretching routine. This can be hard to fathom, especially if you consider stretching a low-intensity part of your routine. And while stretching probably won’t raise your heart rate to your peak or cardio zones, it can help you burn fat. Here’s how.
Does Stretching Burn Fat?
Stretching can help you burn small amounts of fat. Although a few calories here and there might seem pretty pitiful, they add up over time. To burn fat, you often need to burn additional calories (and eat right, stay active, get good sleep, etc.).
Stretching can help you burn small amounts of calories, in turn helping you burn fat. Of course, the number of calories you’ll burn through your regular stretching hinges on the length of time you spend stretching and how difficult the stretches are.
How Many Calories Will I Burn From Stretching?
As mentioned, the number of calories you’ll burn in your stretching routine depends on your effort and the length of time you maintain this effort. As a general rule of thumb, though, stretching doesn’t burn many calories.
Here are a few examples:
- A 200-pound individual would burn around 113 calories while performing 30 minutes of stretching. This same individual would burn 45 calories while quietly sitting on the couch for 30 minutes.
- A 150-pound individual would burn around 85 calories while performing 30 minutes of stretching. This same person would burn approximately 34 calories in half-hour sitting quietly on the couch.
- A 125-pound individual would burn around 70 calories throughout a 30-minute stretching routine or 28 calories in half an hour on the couch.
So, you could burn over two times the calories you would sitting on the couch. While this isn’t a significant difference, it adds up after a while. If you’re consistent with your stretching routines, such as twice a day or every day, you may begin to notice added weight loss benefits.
Basal Metabolic Rates
How do these people burn calories while parked on the couch? Any one of us is burning calories at any given time, even if we’re relaxed on the sofa or lying in bed. This is because of the basal metabolic rate, also known as your BMR.
Our BMR is the amount of energy necessary to maintain our basic bodily functions throughout the day while at rest. These functions include keeping your heart beating, regulating a consistent body temperature, and breathing.
Surprisingly enough, your BMR accounts for roughly ⅔ of your total calories burned for the day. So, your calorie expenditure in your heart-pumping workout only accounts for a pitiful percentage of the total calories you’ll burn in the day. This doesn’t mean you should quit exercising altogether; it just offers a different perspective.
Exercising is great for your body – it strengthens your heart, improves circulation, improves muscle strength, boosts your endurance, and many others. So, while exercising won’t be the main way you burn calories in a day, you should still incorporate healthy movement into your routine.
How Does Stretching Affect Weight Loss?
We’ve learned that stretching doesn’t burn many calories but can affect weight loss. If the percentage of expended calories is so tiny compared to the total of the day, how does stretching help with weight loss?
The thing is, stretching improves other areas of your life that benefit your weight loss efforts. Stretching helps boost your flexibility, increase your range of motion in your joints, reduce the risk of injury, and even help diminish stress.
Although your half-hour stretching routine will likely burn less than 200 calories, it’s a great addition to your day. Here’s how stretching can impact your weight loss journey:
NEAT drastically affects the total number of calories you burn in a day. NEAT, also known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, includes all the physical activity you go through in a day that isn’t exercising. This could be walking around your home, selecting groceries, carrying your kids to the house, sweeping the patio, and other regular movements you do in a day.
Stretching can help improve NEAT by making these movements more comfortable. You probably won’t want to move much if you have stiff joints and sore muscles. However, moving won’t be as much chore if your muscles are limber and your joints feel great. So, you might be more inclined to move throughout your day, improving NEAT.
Stress is commonly associated with weight gain and other problems, making it another thing to consider in a weight loss journey. Cortisol, often called the “stress hormone,” stimulates your fat and carbohydrate metabolism. The stimulation causes a surge of energy in your body that is vital in survival situations.
Unfortunately, this also increases your appetite. Many folks with elevated cortisol levels experience cravings for sweet, salty, and fatty foods, which creates a roadblock in a weight loss journey. So, decreasing stress is a great way to avoid many side effects associated with elevated cortisol levels.
Stretching can help reduce your stress. These flexibility exercises get your blood pumping in a manner that can help improve your mood and decrease stress levels. On top of that, stretching can help increase serotonin levels (the hormone that makes us happy), reducing stress and making us more content overall.
Another excellent benefit of stretching is more effective workouts. This is the same concept mentioned above (in the improved NEAT section) – when our bodies feel better, we might be more inclined to move, especially since we can do so without pain.
Aside from this, stretching also helps keep your body in top condition. After intense workouts, your muscles might begin to tighten and become sore. The soreness might sometimes be intense enough to convince you to skip your workout the next day.
Stretching after your exercise routine can help relieve soreness, making the following days after your intense workout more bearable.
On top of this, stretching also increases your range of motion. With a better range of motion, you can activate more muscle fibers during a resistance training workout. Activating additional muscles may boost metabolically active muscle mass, translating to better results.
What Stretches Should I Do To Lose Weight?
If your goal is to lose weight, incorporating stretching is a great place to start. However, remember that stretching alone won’t do the trick. Try to stay active (even if that just means walking more than you used to), eat healthily, stay hydrated, and get enough sleep. With these factors at play, stretching can be the icing on the cake in your weight loss journey.
The stretches you should do may vary from one day to the next based on the workout you did that day. For example, stretching your body is excellent but ineffective if you do focused lower-body training. If you’re trying to lessen soreness, concentrate on the muscle group you targeted that day.
Or, if you want to target your entire body, mix it up with varying stretches. You don’t need fancy, complicated stretches to reap the benefits – simple stretches will do the trick. Here are a few solid stretches to loosen and elongate your muscles:
- Downward dog: This stretch is great for elongating your body – if your hamstrings are tight, you’ll feel the stretch there.
- Side lunges: Deep side lunges can help stretch your adductor muscle group (inner thighs). You may also feel the stretch through your hamstrings and hips.
- Seated twist: A seated twist helps elongate muscles in your neck, chest, shoulders, and back.
- Butterfly pose: This pose helps target your hips, groin, inner thighs, and knees.
- Child’s pose: This pose is excellent for stretching your lower back and inner thighs, and the extended version stretches your spine, hips, and knees as well.
- Triceps stretch: As the name implies, this stretch targets the muscles in your triceps.
- Cobra pose: This pose stretches muscles all the way down the body, including the tops of your feet, hip flexors, abdominals, chest, biceps, and neck.