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Stretches to Lose Weight Fast

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When you think of exercise for weight loss you might conjure up ideas of intense circuit classes with an overly-eager instructor barking orders in your ear, long weekend runs or heavy weight sessions.

If you’re not out of breath, sweating and exhausted then it’s not working, right?

Well, no.

Even something as simple as stretching could contribute towards fat loss and a better composition.

If you want to know how to lose weight by incorporating easy, light stretching into your daily routine then you’re in the right place.

Read on to find out more…


The Basics of Weight Loss

Losing weight is hard. Making sure you hit the gym a few times per week can be difficult to keep up, let alone following a diet.

But the key to losing weight and shredding fat isn’t in cutting out anything and everything that’s high in calories. Or getting up at 5 am every morning for a grueling 6-mile run.

It’s about finding what works for you… something you enjoy and above else, finding a calorie deficit to start losing weight.

Energy balance matters

Although achieving your target weight can be hard, dropping fat is actually quite easy from a purely physiological point of view.

All you need to do is eat less than you burn off through exercise. If you do you create a negative energy balance and force your body to burn stored energy (from fat) it’ll release fatty acids to make up the difference.

You burn calories in lots of different ways:

  • Basal metabolic rate (BMR) – this is the energy you burn on a daily basis just making sure your liver filters waste, your heart beats and your brain functions properly.
  • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – this refers to the calories burned doing everyday activities such as walking, fidgeting, moving etc. It’s not exercise per se.
  • Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) – when you exercise in the gym or go to a fitness class you’re performing structured exercise.
  • Thermal effect of food (TEF) – when you eat food your digestive system needs energy to contract and push food to where it’s needed.

When you add all of these together you’ll get your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE.

How many calories does each TDEE component burn?

This is where it gets interesting because you’ll be surprised with the answer.

You’ll burn around 60-70% of your daily calories from BMR. That’s because you need a lot of energy just to function. Even if you sat all day and didn’t move your heart, kidneys and brain would still need energy.

The unfortunate thing is that even though BMR burns the most calories, just sitting around isn’t enough to help you lose weight.

You can burn a surprisingly high 30% of your energy from NEAT. Just being active and ‘always on your feet’ can contribute a lot of calories.

Structured exercise can be quite low. Exercise contributes as little as 15% to your TDEE. So even an hours’ exercise doesn’t impact that much if your NEAT is low.

Lastly, eating food contributes around 5% of your TDEE. It hardly contributes to your energy expenditure at all in comparison to the other factors.

Note: If you’re good with numbers you’ll notice that these don’t necessarily add up to 100%. That’s because they are relative scores based on your overall activity levels. It does give you a good idea though of how important each one is.

Tanned and toned woman in red sportswear shows off her tight and chiseled abs

The Benefits of Stretching

Being flexible has many benefits.

Current guidelines laid out the ACSM [1] – the collaborative body tasked with telling you how much of each exercise is good for your health – suggest that you should:

  • Stretch between 5 and 7 times per week but 2-3 as an absolute minimum.
  • You should accumulate 60 seconds per stretch, split into 10-30 second individual stretches
  • Use a full body approach and cover each major muscle
  • Only go to a point where there is tension in the muscle, never pain

Better Flexibility

Flexibility is defined as movement around a joint. And stretching helps to increase that by allowing the joints to move more freely.

Being flexible is in itself one of the five components of fitness alongside cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength, muscle endurance and motor skills.

Stretching without a doubt increases flexibility. It is also important for overall wellness and longevity.

Improve posture

Alongside a good strength training program stretching can help to lengthen muscles that are tight through lack of movement.

Stretching helps you sit and stand upright, helping you to reduce soreness from some muscles working too hard to hold an uncomfortable position.

Research has shown that taking part in 12-weeks of flexibility classes twice per week for one-hour helped a group of 50 volunteers improve core endurance, hamstring flexibility and upper body strength – all markers of good posture [2].

Improves Sports Performance

Stretching 3 days per week for 40 minutes was found to help a group of athletes perform better at their sport by improving flexibility, long jump distance, vertical jump height, leg strength and overall lower body endurance [3].

Better fitness in the older adult

As you age your fitness levels tend to get lower and lower, eventually impacting on your functional capacity and health.

A 24-week stretching study given to a group of 69 elders as a ‘Silver Yoga’ program helped them to improve a number of physical fitness indicators such as cardiovascular function, endurance and muscle power [4].

As part of the program, the volunteers took part in 70-minute sessions, 3 times per week.


Dark-haired, young woman stretching on a yoga mat in a fitness studio

How Do Stretches Help with Weight Loss?

So far you know that if the energy you burn each day though the various components of TDEE is higher than what you put into your body from food you’ll burn fat.

And this is where stretching can help.

Because not only does it help improve health and sports performance; stretching can help you lose weight too.

Stretching contributes to your daily energy expenditure under the category of NEAT. Even though you are holding positions for a short amount of time, it still requires energy to hold your posture and stability.

Looking at calorie expenditure calculations, stretching comes in at 2.3 METs. That means it burns around 160 kcal per hour. Not massive, but it does help your TDEE add up.

Stretching can be just as effective as walking

One research paper [5] looked at the differences between walking and stretching on weight loss using just under 70 volunteers – some overweight but most were obese.

They were split into two groups:

  • Group 1: 90 minutes of walking every day
  • Group 2: 90 minutes of a stretching class every day

Both group lost weight. All volunteers were in a calorie deficit and had significantly increased their NEAT.

But what was interesting was that whilst both groups improved their fat mass and reduced belly fat, the stretching group were the only ones to see an increase in the hormones responsible for regulating feelings of fullness and satiety.

Stretching helps children lose weight

A study published in Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice [6] asked a group of children under 15 years old to take part in a 12-week stretching program, 3 times per week.

Practically all of the children lose weight – on average 2 kg. One child even lost as much as 6 kg.


Summary

If stretching is something you enjoy and you’re monitoring your food so that you’re achieving a calorie deficit then stretching is an easy-to-perform activity that help you lose weight.

Realistically, as a light-intensity exercise, stretching isn’t the most effective activity you can use for weight loss though. But it does provide an accessible and healthy alternative to doing little activity at all.

We suggest you use stretching as a starting point for boosting your NEAT and use it as a springboard to more intense exercise for faster weight loss.


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References

  1. Thompson, PD et al. ACSM’s New Preparticipation Health Screening Recommendations from ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription, Ninth Edition. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2013; 12(4): 215-217
  2. Kloubec, JA. Pilates for Improvement of Muscle Endurance, Flexibility, Balance, and Posture. J Strength Cond Res. 2010; 24(3): 661-667
  3. Kokkonen, J et al. Chronic static stretching improves exercise performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2007; 39(10) 1825-1831
  4. Chen, KM et al. Silver Yoga Exercises Improved Physical Fitness of Transitional Frail Elders. Nursing Res. 2010; 59(5): 364-370
  5. Telles, S et al. A comparative controlled trial comparing the effects of yoga and walking for overweight and obese adults. Med Sci Monit. 2014; 20: 894-904
  6. Benavides, S et al. Ashtanga yoga for children and adolescents for weight management and psychological well being: An uncontrolled open pilot study. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. 2009; 15 110–114


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