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Stretching is a form of exercise that involves controlled movement of various muscles in your body. It is usually performed as a warm-up activity, prior to other strenuous forms of exercises such as aerobics and strength training. Stretching is also considered as a cool-down activity after exercising to relax your muscles.
Why is stretching necessary?
Stretching is usually recommended before any exercise, as it helps loosen and warm up your muscles, thereby reducing the risk of straining when exercising. Whether you plan to lift weights, take a walk, or do bicycling, setting aside a few minutes to stretching is effective in improving your flexibility for the activity that you plan, so as to prevent any injury.
Benefits Of Stretching
Potential Benefits Of Regular Stretching Are:
• Better flexibility of the body
• Better movement of the joints
• Relief from muscle tension
• Improved blood circulation
• Prepares the body for exercise
• Cools down the body after exercise
• Improves healing in case of a muscle injury
• Lowers the risk for exercise-related injury
Does Stretching Help You Lose Weight?
Stretching involves various movements, but it burns comparatively fewer calories. Stretching typically does not help with weight loss, but it helps in preparing your body for exercises that can help you lose weight.
Calories Burnt During Stretching - A Comparison
Even when you are sedentary, your body does burn calories. But, when you do a physical activity, you increase the rate at which you burn calories. For example, a person who weighs 72 kg, on performing stretches for 30 minutes, would burn only 144 calories. This is far too low, in comparison to the calorie burn by the same person doing any physical activity for 30 minutes. On the other hand, if the person performs high impact aerobics, he will burn 254 calories, or if using an elliptical trainer, he would burn 413 calories.
This indicates that stretching may not be an effective way to burn calories when you are aiming at weight loss.
Best Exercises For Weight Loss
If stretching doesn't help with weight loss, then what are the best exercises that help with weight loss? The solution is, if you wish to lose weight through exercises, choose either aerobic or strength-training exercises. Such exercises help in improving weight loss by boosting muscular activity, compelling your body to burn calories. If you are specifically looking for weight-loss benefits, you need to choose an aerobic activity of moderate intensity such as brisk walking or swimming for a minimum of 3 hours per week.
Another option is to do high-intensity aerobic activity like jogging or running for a total of one and half hours per week. For added benefits of weight-loss, combine it with strength-training like weightlifting at least twice a week.
Aerobic exercises such as bicycling, swimming, and running are the best types of exercises that help you burn fat, along with limiting calorie intake.
The Bottom Line:
It is best to consider stretching as an activity to be done before your workout, but not as a calorie-burning exercise. Stretching is the ideal and effective warm-up activity for several exercises, but not an efficient calorie burner. The process of stretching will indeed burn fat, but at a very lower rate than any other type of physical activity. But, make sure you incorporate stretching activity before any type of workout to warm up your muscles.
Although stretching does not contribute to weight loss by itself, it is vital to keep you active, healthy and in top shape, helping you burn calories during your workout sessions.
Few Guidelines To Follow When Performing Stretches:
• According to experts, do some slow walking for five minutes to warm up your muscles, as this will reduce your chances of muscle injury when performing stretches.
• When stretching, focus on engaging your body's major muscle groups like lower back, neck, shoulders, thighs, hips and calves. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds. Repeat each stretch for both sides of your body three to four times.
• An important aspect to consider when stretching is to focus on the muscle groups that you plan to use during your exercise. For example, if you plan to ride a bicycle, focus on your calves, hips, quads and hamstrings before getting on with the activity.
• In case you have an injured muscle, stretching can worsen the injury. Therefore, check with your doctor or physical therapist before doing stretching exercises.
• If your intention is to lose weight, the best way is to create a well-planned exercise regimen with aerobics (3 to 5 times a week), muscle building (2 to 4 times per week) and incorporating stretching every day.