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You might not be the biggest fan of cardio or the gym and may be wondering, ‘Can stretching alone help me lose weight?’ The process of losing weight involves many factors. If you have unhealthy food or exercise habits, losing weight involves creating healthier habits.
One of these habits is stretching. A stretching routine incorporated into your exercise program is crucial for you to lose weight. Why? It will help your body recover from your workout. Stretching isn’t just about ‘elasticizing’ your body. It helps with recovery, flexibility, and so much more.
So, can stretching help you lose weight? Stretching alone won’t help you lose weight. However, as part of a complete workout program, stretching can help you lose weight. The act of stretching helps you recover from your workout, keeps your muscles flexible, and relaxes your muscles.
Diet, Exercise, Recovery, and Rest
If you are looking to lose weight, it may be a good idea to practice DERR – diet, exercise, recovery, and rest. Proactively finding good habits in all four of these categories can help you to become fitter and healthier not only in your body but in your mind.
Try to incorporate healthy habits in your diet, exercise, recovery, and rest. Remember that all of these factors play a part together. Stretching is part of recovery and a crucial part of your healthy habits or weight loss journey. This means that stretching out your body is an integral part of your program that you can’t skip.
Does Stretching Burn Calories?
Every activity that you do burns calories– from a 60-minute spin class to a 60 walk down the hallway. If you are looking for an activity that actively and dynamically burns calories, stretching may not be the activity to focus on. However, stretching is an incredibly important part of your fitness and wellness routine.
You can stretch at any time of the day. It might feel good to do a 5-minute stretch routine before you start your day or a long cool-down session after a workout at the gym.
The Benefits of Stretching
Stretching doesn’t just feel good in your body, it does your body a lot of good. Even just a few minutes of stretching every day can make a world of a difference in your body. Here are some benefits of stretching:
- Relaxes your muscles to lessen the signs of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
- Increases your range of motion
- Improves your posture
- Increases bone density
- Increases elasticity in your muscles, ligaments, and fascia
- Improves circulation
- Reduces the risk of injury
- Reduces stress
While there are many benefits to stretching, remember that:
- Stretching alone cannot help you lose weight
- It shouldn’t be rushed or forced
- It’s not a replacement for cardio or resistance training
Types of Stretching
Did you know that there are actually many different types of stretching? If you attend a yoga class, you will likely do all of these types of stretching within your practice. If you are looking to focus on stretching a specific part of your body, it might be a good idea to focus on one type of stretching. For example, if you are looking for a relaxing stretch, you might choose to practice passive stretching. Here are the different types of stretching you can try:
- Active Stretching: Active stretching is a stretch where no outside force is utilized to engage your muscles into a stretch. A Warrior 3 pose is a good example of the active stretch.
- Passive Stretching: This type of stretching uses props or tools to increase flexibility instead of actively using your muscles to stretch. Blocks, yoga straps, an Iyengar Yoga wall, or even the floor are all considered passive stretching tools.
- Dynamic Stretching: Taking a Vinyasa class is a prime example of dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching requires you to move with your full range of motion. This type of stretching is mostly used for warming up your body. Imagine practicing 2 Sun Salutations in a row. How do you feel after? Usually, this type of stretching helps your entire body feel warmed up and ready to go.
- PNF Stretching: This kind of stretching is probably the most effective stretch to gain flexibility because it requires contraction of the muscle, followed by stretching the muscle to its fullest point. This action triggers the Myotatic reflex which signals the spinal cord to relax the muscle. Some poses to consider for PNF stretching are Low Crescent Lunge and Half Monkey Pose. In these postures, you contract your muscles to get into alignment, and then relax to extend your body further.
Is it Bad to Stretch Every Day?
Stretching is an activity that you can safely do every day. However, if you force your body to stretch further than you can that day, you might set yourself up for injury. Flexibility takes time to build. The parts of your body that you may try to stretch include some very rigid structures like your tendons and your fascia.
A regular and consistent stretching practice will slowly increase your flexibility. Remember to listen to your body, and never force yourself into a stretch. If you notice a sharp pain when stretching, back off and don’t go so deeply into the stretch. You might start out inflexible, but don’t let that deter you from stretching. In fact, it is even more important for you to add stretching to your regular routine!
Does Stretching Tone Your Body?
Stretching involves contracting and lengthening your body. It also improves muscle tone, which may result in a more toned figure. Yoga practice includes different yoga postures which stretch, lengthen, and contract your muscles.
After practicing yoga for a while, you may notice that your body looks longer and more toned. This can be caused by building up strength in your muscles and stretching your body. While yoga is definitely not just stretching, the stretches and poses that you practice can tone your body.
Stretching vs Yoga
You can practice yoga and be stretching. However, you can practice stretching, but not practice yoga. Yoga is an ancient practice steeped in tradition and is not just a physical practice, but a spiritual and personal one as well. Many yoga poses can look like a stretch. However, the poses include breath, tradition, and awareness – and this in turn sets it apart from a simple stretch.
You can stretch anytime you want without so much awareness. Usually, when you practice yoga, it is a deliberate and mindful practice. It might be your time for yourself and a time that you can connect and go a little deeper. While you may be stretching when practicing yoga, the practice of yoga is much different from just a simple stretch in the middle of your day.
Does Yoga Help You Lose Weight?
If weight loss is your goal, there are certain practices of yoga that can help you lose weight. However, when people start yoga as a means to lose weight, they often find that there are so many more amazing benefits that the practice holds. It is something that you will experience for yourself as you move through your yoga journey.
If you are looking for a yoga practice that can help you on your weight loss journey, try some of these styles of yoga:
- Hot Yoga: Commonly known as ‘Bikram’ yoga, this practice allegedly can help you to claim to burn 1000 calories in a 90-minute session. A study done in Colorado estimated that the reality was less than half because the calories burnt were due to a rise in metabolic rate. Calorie Burn: 330
- Vinyasa Yoga: This style of yoga moves with the rhythm of your breath. The practice is a continuous flow that requires more physical exertion than a restorative or yin practice. Vinyasa yoga often has creative sequences, arm balances, and even inversions. Calorie Burn: 550
- Ashtanga Yoga: Like Vinyasa, this practice also uses the rhythm of breath to move from asana to asana. Beginners start with the Primary Series and learn either at their own pace (Mysore practice) or led by a teacher. Ashtanga can be a very vigorous and athletic type of yoga practice. Calorie burn: 450-550
- Adding Inversions to Your Practice: Adding arm balances and handstands to your practice jumpstarts your organs, improves your circulation, and raises endorphins. The calorie burn is around 45 calories for 10-minute handstand practice. Combined with vinyasa or other physical forms of yoga, that can be a big boost to calories burnt for that period. Calorie Burn: 45 calories for every 10-minute session
Combining Yoga with Exercise
As yoga becomes more popular in the West, there have been many different activities that have been born by mixing the practice with other forms of exercise. While it may no longer be called traditional yoga, you can mix some traditional postures with your workout.
Yoga with HIIT
High-Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is a combination of fast and slow movements. This increases your metabolic rate, enabling you to burn calories faster even while you are at rest. When combined with yoga poses, it can be very effective in achieving your fitness goals.
Try these out:
- Body rolls from downward dog to plank and reverse
- Three-legged downward dog to knee to nose
- High lunge to low lunge
Yoga with Weights
Adding weights to your yoga practice tones your body in record time. When you add resistance, our body responds by building more muscle. You can use wrist or ankle weights or light free weights.
Try these out:
- Warrior with bicep curl
- Mountain pose to upward salute with weights
- Tabletop leg kickbacks with weights
Yoga with Socks
When you add the element of sliding into your asanas, it gets immensely more interesting. All of your strength will be centered on your core, and you can use your mula bandha to maintain alignment. Be mindful when practicing in socks to avoid any injury.
Try these out:
- Slide from downward dog to plank
- Plank to side plank holds
- Downward dog to fallen triangle
Additional Methods of Weight Loss
Stretching can aid in your weight loss goals, but remember that stretching alone will not help you to lose weight. It is important to be aware of your diet, recovery, and rest. There are many activities that you can do in order to keep yourself fit and active. Some of these activities include:
Cardio is one of the best ways to lose weight. Get your heart rate up by hitting the gym, dancing, going for a run, or taking a spin class. Cardio doesn’t have to be done only at the gym, and you can have fun doing it! Doing cardio 2-3 times a week will help you to feel stronger and fitter.
Functional training involves usual everyday movement patterns, but with resistance. For this training, you use proper body mechanics, alignment, and bodyweight training, as well as aids like resistance bands and medicine balls. This combination of mobility training in circuits is one of the fastest methods for weight loss.
Mobility Training and Calisthenics
Gymnastics, calisthenics, acrobatics, and other practices make up mobility training. This kind of training can often be done with just your body and without the need for fancy equipment or gyms. Mobility training builds strength, flexibility, and muscle tone. Try an online class or find a class near you with certified instructors.
If you are looking to lose weight, remember that there are many factors that go into reaching your fitness goals. Start to build healthy habits in your diet, exercise routine, recovery routine, and resting schedule.
Keep in mind that stretching alone will not help you lose weight, but adding it to your routine will do wonders. Stretching is a great daily habit to have and is just one part of a healthy lifestyle. Start stretching a few minutes every day before and after your workout, or add a yoga class to your fitness routine. Your body will thank you for it!