Have you heard about professional football players taking ballet classes? It’s true! Two of the main reasons these athletes participate in such a delicate exercise: stretching and flexibility.
Stretching can enhance flexibility, increase range of motion, prevent injury and can rejuvenate the body and mind. Stretching and flexibility training is not only beneficial on the football field, but it’s also helpful in everyday life. In addition, many find stretching an effective stress management and weight loss tool. It’s amazing how just a few minutes of flexibility exercises can make such a difference in your day!
Stretching for Weight Loss: What does stretching have to do with weight loss?
While it might seem like a stretch (no pun intended), there seems to be a link between stretching and weight loss. In general, the calories burned from stretching exercises are fairly moderate, but some benefits tie stretching and weight loss:
- Stretching can improve flexibility in various muscle groups and help to prevent injury. When you are agile and injury-free, you may be able to push yourself harder during a workout routine and in turn, burn more calories.
- High stress can lead to poor sleeping and eating habits. Why? The stress hormone, cortisol, is released during times of stress. According to WebMD1, cortisol can increase insulin levels, which can cause a dip in blood sugar — leading you to crave high-calorie and sweet foods. When you experience chronic stress, overeating no-so-healthy foods can become a habit. Lowering your stress levels with a stretching routine could help you to relax and get a better night’s sleep and might even help you eat healthier foods by reducing your anxiety.
5 stretching tips
Be careful when stretching to avoid injury. If you’re not sure about the proper way to complete a stretch, consult your physician or your health care provider.
- Stretch your muscles when they are “warm.” Dynamic stretches are a great way to warm your muscles up. Try doing arm circles, jumping jacks, lunges or hip circles to start your stretching routine and help increase blood flow. Try to avoid stretching before your muscles are warmed up. It's equally as important to stretch after a workout to help “cool” down muscles.
- Hold the stretch to the point of mild tension for 15-30 seconds. If something hurts, listen to your body and stop the stretch.
- Avoid bouncing or jerking movements, especially at the knees.
- Focus on your breath to optimize the movement. Take one long breath in, then let it out slowly as you perform the exercise.
- Allow yourself to relax and experience the mind-body connection. Find a quiet place to stretch where you can tune out distractions. Turn on some relaxing music. Do whatever it takes to help you decompress and focus on stretching.
What about yoga?
Yoga is an ancient practice that offers many modern benefits. Translated from Sanskrit, it means “yoke” or union, and symbolizes the link between body and mind. Consisting of gentle stretching, balance and strengthening exercises, yoga is performed slowly with a focus on the breath. Woven together as a combination of postures, yoga can be both energizing and relaxing. What’s more, according to Harvard Health, practicing yoga on a regular basis might help with weight loss and maintenance by helping participants stay in tune with their body and practice mindful eating2.
Start out with gentle yoga, and overtime, if you wish, you can progress to more vigorous types of yoga that elevate the heart rate for longer and lead to a greater calorie burn. No matter the type of yoga you practice, you can benefit from the physical activity (even when light), stretching and relaxation, and mind-body awareness.
New to yoga? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Yoga and go into your first class feeling prepared!
When you think of physical fitness, flexibility might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, a well-balanced exercise routine includes stretching, according to the Mayo Clinic3. If you only focus on cardio and strength training, you’ll miss out on the benefits of stretching like improving your flexibility and range of motion. Think of it this way: A three-legged stool doesn’t function well with one missing leg. This is how you should think about flexibility and a stretching routine.
Try to include stretching exercises into your fitness routine to support your overall health and wellness. You might just be surprised by the benefits!
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple
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