Stretching can soothe body and mind and may help improve your athletic dexterity, but it has no effect on your waistline. The only sure-fire trick for a slimmer waist is to eat a reduced-calorie diet and get plenty of exercise to reduce overall body fat. Even then, there is little you can do to change your proportions -- if you've been an apple shape your entire life, no exercise move will garner you an hourglass figure.
Stretching and Weight
Weight loss requires a calorie deficit; for every 3,500 calories you burn off and don't replace with food, you lose about a pound. Physical activity ups your calorie burn, but stretching isn't active enough to make much difference. The average gentle Hatha yoga session, which is mainly stretching, burns about 150 calories in half an hour if you weigh 160 pounds. But doing a few minutes of stretches after your workout will burn a small fraction of that, and there are far more efficient ways to torch calories, such as cardio.
Benefits of Stretching
While stretching is not the key to slimming down, it can lead to greater flexibility. Performing stretches increases your range of motion, reducing your risk of injury during sports and workouts. It can also improve your posture and balance, helping you stand tall and proud. If you have sore muscles, stretching may help relieve the pain, according to the American Council on Exercise. Plus, stretching can ease tension to help you feel relaxed. ACE recommends 30 minutes of stretching three times a week, but notes that even five-minute stretching sessions provide benefits.
Stretching seems harmless, but it is possible to injure yourself without proper precautions. Never stretch with cold muscles; stretching is not a warm-up, so walk or jog for five to 10 minutes first, or wait until after your workout. Maintain a smooth motion, and don't bounce. Stop your stretch before it starts to hurt, and consult a doctor before stretching injured areas. You only benefit from stretching with regular practice, and any flexibility you gain will wane once you stop.
Visceral fat that lies deep in your abdomen is easier to lose than fat in the lower body, according to Harvard Medical School. This is good news, because visceral fat is the most dangerous kind; it's linked to Type 2 diabetes, vascular disease and breast cancer. A waistline of 35 inches or larger signifies high levels of visceral fat for most women. Engage in regular cardio and resistance-training exercises and reduce calories to 1,500 per day to lose weight. Visceral fat should respond, prompting a slimmer waist and reduced disease risk.
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People at Three Different Weights
- American Council on Exercise: Flexible Benefits
- Harvard Health Publications: Taking Aim at Belly Fat
- GoodHousekeeping.com: Is 1,200 Calories a Day Enough?
- MayoClinic.com: Stretching: Focus on Flexibility
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.