The best thing about flexibility training is that you don’t have to do it very often or for very long to enjoy the benefits. Just a few minutes of stretching each day will help to improve the range of motion in your joints, may help to decrease the risk of injury during exercise, and reduce stress. Consistency is important to boost your flexibility, but even if you participate in a stretching program 2-3 times per week, your body will feel better.
Even though you won’t burn mega calories during a short stretching session, your body functions better when your joints move more comfortably. This can improve your weight loss program in several different ways.
- Decreased stress. Flexibility exercises help to get your blood pumping, but not in a way that increases your adrenaline. Stretching and breathing exercises help to improve your mood and lower your stress level. This may be especially helpful for people who are trying to curb emotional eating. If you can replace the trip to the refrigerator with 5 minutes of healthy stretching, you’re likely to eat less and slim down faster.
- Improved NEAT. Organized workouts are important, but the calories you burn from NEAT play a big role in the total number of calories you burn each day. NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis and it includes all of your activity throughout the day that is not exercise. NEAT includes walking to your car in the parking lot, lifting groceries, shovelling the sidewalk, and other typical movements. You’re more likely to move more throughout the day if your joints and limbs feel good. Stretching helps to keep you active.
- More effective workouts. Aerobic activity and strength training for weight loss are more effective when you perform each exercise fully. Stretching helps keep your body in top shape so that you burn more calories during your workouts and you spend less time recovering from injuries or soreness.
Stretching doesn’t burn a lot of calories. For maximum caloric expenditure, you should consider higher intensity activities like jogging, interval training, or even walking. But stretching does burn a few extra calories. Exactly how many calories are burned stretching? Here’s a quick rundown.
- A 125-pound person burns about 70 calories performing a 30-minute stretching routine.
- A 150-pound person burns about 85 calories performing a 30-minute stretching routine.
- A 200-pound person burns about 113 calories performing a 30-minute stretching routine.
Sample 30-Minute Stretching Routine
So what flexibility exercises should you do? You can do simple stretches when you get out of bed each morning. These might include:
- Full body roll. Stand tall and reach your arms towards the sky. Then relax the arms and roll the spine down. Let your arms relax towards the floor. Keep the knees bent to protect your back. Hold the position (but continue to breathe!) for 5-15 seconds then slowly roll back up and repeat.
- Crescent moon stretches. Reaching the arms over your end, gently curve the body into the shape of a C (or a crescent moon) by bending the body to the left and then to the right.
- Neck and shoulder stretch. In a seated or standing position, gently tilt the chin towards your chest and feel a gentle release in the back of the neck. Then slowly and carefully roll the head to the left and to the right to stretch the sides of the neck. You may feel the stretch into the top of each shoulder.
- Chest opener. In a seated or standing position, clasp the hands together behind your back. Feel the front of the chest open and stretch. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
- Hip and inner thigh stretch. In a seated position, bring the soles of the feet together in front of your body so that your legs form a triangle. Keeping the spine long, tilt forward from the hips, bringing your chest closer to the floor. It’s normal if you can’t bend very far. Remember to keep breathing as you hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
- The Cobra. This stretching exercise targets your shoulders, back, chest, abs, hips, and obliques.How to perform: Stretch your arms at your sides and lie down on your mat, feet together; Lift your upper body upwards; Lean your head back; Hold this position for 20-30 seconds.
These stretches will help to loosen up your joints and start your day with healthy movement. You might also choose to do these stretches at your desk while you are at work. If you time at lunch, before or after work, you can also take a yoga class to lose weight or learn the practice of tai chi to improve your health. Both of these mind/body practices help to improve flexibility and reduce stress.
Flexibility training alone won’t burn enough calories to make a big difference in your daily energy balance. But when you pair stretching exercises with a complete workout program, you’ll benefit from a healthier body that feels good. When your body feels good you’re more likely to move more often, burn more calories, and improve your chances of weight loss.