Stretching is a form of exercise that involves controlled lengthening and shortening of various muscles in your body. It is frequently performed in association with more strenuous forms of exercise such as aerobics or strength training. While stretching does not typically contribute to weight loss, it does help prepare your body for exercises that do help you lose weight.
To lose or control your weight through exercise, you will need to perform either aerobic or strength-training exercises, according to Medline Plus. Exercises in these categories promote weight loss by increasing muscular activity and forcing your body to burn calories. To gain the weight-loss benefits of aerobics, you will typically need to perform a moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as swimming or brisk walking for at least two and a half hours per week. Alternatively, you can perform a high-intensity aerobic activity such as jogging or running for a weekly total of an hour and 15 minutes. To gain the weight-loss benefits of strength-training exercises such as weightlifting or resistance band training, you will typically need to work out at least twice a week.
Potential benefits of a regular stretching program include an improved range of motion in your joints, improved flexibility, relief of stress-related muscle tension and increases in your blood circulation that can improve your rate of healing if you injure a muscle. Since almost all aerobic and strength-training exercises involve flexion and contraction of your muscles, performance of a stretching routine before and after these exercises can help your body prepare for activity and might lower your risks for exercise-related injuries.
Before stretching, you will need to warm up your muscles with five to 10 minutes of a low-intensity aerobic activity like walking, according to the Nemours Foundation’s TeensHealth website. Warming up reduces your chances of sustaining a muscle injury while stretching and prepares your body for more rigorous aerobic and strength-training activities. When stretching, concentrate your efforts on engaging your body’s major muscles groups, including your lower back, shoulders and neck, thighs, calves and hips. Hold each stretch for roughly 30 seconds without bouncing your muscles. Work both sides of your body and repeat each stretch three or four times.
While you can adapt stretching to almost any schedule or fitness routine, it's often necessary to modify certain stretches if you have an injury or a chronic medical condition. Be aware that stretching an injured muscle can significantly worsen the existing injury. Additionally, if you experience pain during a stretch, you are placing too much stress on your muscle. If you have any doubts about the suitability of a given stretching exercise, ask your doctor and/or physical therapist for advice.
Along with aerobic and strength-training exercises, weight loss or control depends on your ability to limit your caloric intake. If you have specific weight-loss goals, you might need to increase the amount or intensity of the aerobic and/or strength activities you perform. Although regular stretching sessions won't contribute to weight loss, they're vitally important to keep your agile and healthy during the exercises you'll use to burn calories and lose weight. Consult your doctor for more information.