Can Stretching Help You Lose Weight? 5 Stretches To Try At Home 2023

Jennifer Olejarz

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

can stretching help you lose weight

The benefits of stretching[1] do not always get the attention they deserve. Stretching is an integral part of a well-rounded workout for many reasons; helping you to manage your weight as well as increase flexibility, mobility, and muscle strength. 

While most people believe it’s just what you do after a workout to prevent soreness, it provides benefits that create a domino effect of improvement in many areas of your life. Yoga, for example, has been shown to be just as effective or better[2] at improving health than other exercises. 

If you’re constantly forgetting to stretch or feel it’s not worth your time, read on to learn all the benefits stretching provides, why it shouldn’t be missed, and if it helps you lose weight. 

Does Stretching Help You Lose Weight?

Stretching is crucial for a healthy weight loss program. While stretching burns calories more slowly than a high-intensity interval (HIIT[3]) workout, it’s still an important part of your fitness routine. It reduces stress, aids in recovery, and supports healthy weight management.

By reducing stress[4] and pain, making your workouts easier[1], and increasing flexibility, stretching can indirectly support weight loss. 

Yoga, for example, is popularly known as a gentle activity that mostly involves holding stretched positions for a few minutes at a time. That’s just one type of yoga, however, and its benefits are more than just increased flexibility. Also, the variety of classes requiring different levels of intensity, muscle strength, and concentration is expanding. 

Some of the most popular yoga classes that can help[5] with your weight loss journey include

  • Ashtanga – high-intensity and dynamic fast-paced movement with deep, controlled breathing
  • Vinyasa or power yoga – high-intensity flowing yoga with continuous movement and breathing techniques
  • Aerial – high-intensity and dynamic yoga on a rope with your body in the air
  • Hatha – low to high- intensity with static poses and breathing techniques
  • Hot – moderate to high-intensity with a room heated to 105°F (41°C), forcing muscles, lungs, and heart to work harder[6] and to burn more calories 
  • Kundalini – yoga practice focused on mental health and spiritual well-being with repetitive poses, breathing exercises, chanting, and meditation

Yoga and stretching burn calories and increase flexibility, allowing you to do all your other activities with even more ease. It can also increase your muscle mass, which helps to burn more calories at rest as well. 

What Is Stretching?

Stretching is a form of exercise where you move your body and joints through its full range of motions. There are many types, some holding positions for longer and others for shorter. These motions help increase flexibility, which allows your body to have an even wider range of motion.

There are two forms of stretching – static and dynamic. Static stretches are performed while stationary while dynamic stretches are done with movement and flow. They can also have an active component, where you’re using strength, or passive, using external objects to help you stretch. 

It’s an instinctual activity often done naturally upon waking or after long periods of inactivity. Think of your cat or dog waking up. They automatically stretch before getting up (hence the name of the very famous downward dog yoga position). It’s a basic necessity for overall fitness and health, helping you to feel strong, flexible, mobile, and in control.

5 Stretches To Do At Home 

Whether it’s a YouTube video or live online class, stretching at home can be a great addition to your daily routine. Many people find it convenient to do a short 20-minute yoga class after waking or before bed since it’s been shown to reduce stress[7]

There are many great evening or morning stretches for weight loss that helps you let go of the stressors on your mind. 

These are some individual stretches that might be particularly helpful.

Child’s Pose

can stretching help you lose weight

This is one of the most popular poses to help you relax and start or end your workout routine with ease. If you’ve given it a try, you probably know how wonderful it feels once your forehead hits the mat, making your entire body unwind. 

The calmer you feel, the easier it will be for your body to function properly. This type of relaxing stretch can help to balance hormones and reduce the stress hormone cortisol, which can naturally lead[8] to weight loss. 

Plus, the more stressed you are, the more likely you are to choose high-energy foods[9] with addictingly high amounts of sugar, fat, and salt. 

You begin this stretch on all fours on a mat or comfortable floor, with your knees under your hips, leaning back to sit on your bottom. Let your arms spread out forward and your head reach down, letting your forehead rest on the floor. Hold the position for three long breaths or more. 

This position is great for:

  • Releasing tension
  • Restoring energy and a sense of calm
  • Stretching the hips, pelvis, thighs, glutes, hamstrings, piriformis muscles, and spine

Cat-Cow

can stretching help you lose weight

This is a combination of flowing between two poses while on all floors. It’s a great follow-up stretch after child’s pose, as you get ready to begin gentle movement on your back and spine. 

This pose helps to slow breathing and also reduce the stress hormone cortisol[10], making losing weight and healthier food choices easier. 

Push up from Child’s Pose back onto all fours with your wrists directly under your shoulders and hips over your knees. Inhale and arch your back, dropping your belly while looking up. When ready, exhale and round your upper back into the Cat position. 

You can move between these positions several times, allowing your breathing to slow and move with your body. 

This stretch is great for:

  • A gentle start to the day or stretching routine
  • Spinal lubrication and circulation
  • Abdominal organ massage
  • Releasing spinal, arms, abs, torso, and back muscle tension

Downward-Facing Dog

can stretching help you lose weight

This mild inversion helps to energize your body while shifting blood flow to calm your nervous system and brain. It builds core strength along with shoulder and arm muscles, helping to build  lean muscle mass and burn more calories while at rest[11]

It’s also known to be helpful for people with sciatica or other back problems. If you often wake up tired and achy, this can be a great way to smooth out any kinks and relieve fatigue before starting your day. 

From all fours, push your hands to straighten your arms as you lift your hips and straighten your legs. You may need to shift your hands or feet farther apart to make enough space for a long, lean, stretch. 

Don’t worry about your heels touching the floor, either. As long as you feel a nice stretch through your legs and you aren’t on your tiptoes, you’re doing the position in a way that works best for you. With time, you may get your heels on the floor, but feeling energizing is the true goal. 

This stretch is great for:

  • Reducing stress
  • Relieving headaches
  • Working out the arms, shoulders, and core
  • Stretching calves, hamstrings, and spine

To add some flow, you can alternate between the downward-facing dog and a front plank, where you lean forward and fit the shape of a board (i.e. the plank), with your wrists directly under your shoulders. You can make a wave-like motion switching between these two positions, adding an extra strengthening workout to your core, arm, and shoulder muscles. 

Be careful not to arch your back, sag your hips, or tilt your head up when planking so that you maintain one smooth line. 

Warrior One

can stretching help you lose weight

This is a powerful pose that can increase flexibility, core and leg strength, and confidence. It requires total body concentration and strength, making it great for stress reduction. 

Place your legs in a lunge position with the back foot turned 45-60 degree angle, and the front leg bent at 90 degrees, with your knee directly stacked over the ankle. Your hips should be squared and facing forward, with your arms raised overhead and palms facing or touching each other. 

This stretch is great for:

  • Strengthening the core, legs, glutes, and feet
  • Improving coordination and flexibility
  • Increasing stamina and balance
  • Alleviating sciatica, arthritis, or spinal pain, and hip stiffness

Knees To Chest

can stretching help you lose weight

This gentle stretch is an amazing way to start or end the day. It allows your entire body to lay on the floor and keeps your neck and head relaxed. Just like that first feeling of laying your heavy head on your pillow at the end of a long day, this pose allows you to truly rest and release tension, helping to balance hormones and reduce stress. 

Lie on your back and hold your knees above your chest with both hands. You can move gently from side to side to soothe your lower back or hold a static position. Try to hold it for at least 30 seconds and up to several minutes, or as long as feels good. 

This stretch is great for: 

  • Reducing stress, anxiety, anger, or high blood pressure – putting your head and back on the floor can help to calm your vagus nerve[12] and let your nervous system know you’re safe
  • Stretching the lower back, spine, and glutes
  • Relieving digestion problems
  • Opening the hips and massages pelvic organs
  • Easing menstrual pain

Benefits Of Stretching 

Stretching and yoga can help to reduce stress, increase flexibility and protect mobility[13], allowing you to enjoy a higher quality of life with a full range of motion. It keeps your body strong and the many benefits extend into other areas of your life, such as

Physical Benefits

  • Boost metabolism
  • Improve digestion
  • Balance hormones
  • Alleviate cramps
  • Burn calories
  • Build strength
  • Improves breathing patterns
  • Reduce headaches
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increase blood circulation 
  • Spine alignment 
  • Reduces risk of injury
  • Lowers risk of certain illnesses and diseases[14]
  • Adds ease and comfort when performing other physical activities[15]

Mental Health Benefits

  • Relieve stress and anxiety (which can help balance hormones and reduce cravings, leading to weight loss)
  • Ease depression[16] and improve healthy habits
  • Release strong emotions and tension, such as anger or sadness
  • Improve confidence
  • Improve energy and concentration and reduce fatigue

Safety Tips For Stretching

Most of these poses can be done with ease no matter your age, sex, or health condition. However, if you have an injury you should ask your doctor before performing any exercise or stretches. If you’re pregnant, there are certain positions you should avoid as well. 

Stretches To Avoid When Pregnant

  • Lying on your back for long periods of time (e.g. knees to chest) after 20 weeks of pregnancy 
  • Postures that place heavy amounts of pressure on your belly
  • Twisting postures
  • Deep backbends
  • Inversions when you’re a beginner with no practice

There are some studies[17] showing that women can tolerate many yoga poses well during pregnancy. Stretching doesn’t need to be completely avoided when pregnant, but some adjustments may have to be made. Always seek medical advice for the best exercise and stretching program for your needs.. 

Stretching To Avoid Injury

There are certain tips to follow[18] before stretching, such as

  • Warm up first (at least a few minutes of movement)
  • Keep good posture and form
  • Breathe slowly and comfortably (don’t hold your breath)
  • Be patient and avoid stretching to the point of pain (mild tension is the goal)
  • Don’t multitask (focus on the stretch to avoid over-extending or bad form) 
  • Practice regularly 

As always, avoid stretching or exercise after an injury, surgery, or when advised by a doctor. 

The Bottom Line

Stretching is an activity with benefits that extend well past muscle flexibility and strength.

It helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, which can help balance hormones and reduce cortisol levels. 

When feeling relaxed, it becomes easier to choose healthy foods and have the energy to perform other types of physical activity as well. This can help you reach your weight loss goals more easily. 

Overall, stretching is a fantastic part of a regular exercise program that can help you feel stronger, calmer, and more confident. 


+ 18 sources

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  3. Cassidy, S., Thoma, C., Houghton, D. and Trenell, M.I. (2016). High-intensity interval training: a review of its impact on glucose control and cardiometabolic health. Diabetologia, [online] 60(1), pp.7–23. doi:10.1007/s00125-016-4106-1.
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  5. Lee, K.-H., Ju, H.-M. and Yang, W.-H. (2021). Metabolic Energy Contributions During High-Intensity Hatha Yoga and Physiological Comparisons Between Active and Passive (Savasana) Recovery. Frontiers in Physiology, [online] 12. doi:10.3389/fphys.2021.743859.
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  7. ‌Proquest.com. (2022). Effects of Yoga on Stress Management in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review – ProQuest. [online] Available at: https://www.proquest.com/openview/25de198b92bec3b56b7f6e9f60630ea5/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=32528
  8. Abraham, S.B., Rubino, D., Sinaii, N., Ramsey, S. and Nieman, L.K. (2013). Cortisol, obesity, and the metabolic syndrome: A cross-sectional study of obese subjects and review of the literature. Obesity, [online] 21(1), pp.E105–E117. doi:10.1002/oby.20083.
  9. Lopes Cortes, M., Andrade Louzado, J., Galvão Oliveira, M., Moraes Bezerra, V., Mistro, S., Souto Medeiros, D., Arruda Soares, D., Oliveira Silva, K., Nicolaevna Kochergin, C., Honorato dos Santos de Carvalho, V.C., Wildes Amorim, W. and Serrate Mengue, S. (2021). Unhealthy Food and Psychological Stress: The Association between Ultra-Processed Food Consumption and Perceived Stress in Working-Class Young Adults. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 18(8), p.3863. doi:10.3390/ijerph18083863.
  10. Magnon, V., Dutheil, F. and Vallet, G.T. (2021). Benefits from one session of deep and slow breathing on vagal tone and anxiety in young and older adults. Scientific Reports, [online] 11(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-021-98736-9.
  11. Zurlo, F., Larson, K., Bogardus, C. and Ravussin, E. (1990). Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure. Journal of Clinical Investigation, [online] 86(5), pp.1423–1427. doi:10.1172/jci114857.
  12. Gerritsen, R.J.S. and Band, G.P.H. (2018). Breath of Life: The Respiratory Vagal Stimulation Model of Contemplative Activity. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, [online] 12. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2018.00397.
  13. Harvard Health. (2013). The importance of stretching – Harvard Health. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching
  14. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. (2021). Yoga Therapy Decreases Dyspnea-Related Distress and Improves Functional Performance in People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A Pilot Study | The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. [online] Available at: https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089%2Facm.2008.0389
  15. Physical Therapy Reviews. (2013). Stretching: Mechanisms and Benefits for Sport Performance and Injury Prevention. [online] Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1179/108331904225007078
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Jennifer Olejarz

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Jennifer Olejarz is a Certified Nutritionist and Health Counselor specializing in binge and emotional eating, stress management, and mental health. She has almost a decade's worth of experience in the health and wellness field writing health articles, guides, and books, along with creating health and nutrition courses. She works one-to-one with private clients to build healthier lifestyle habits and end the lifelong battle of food guilt and diet frustrations. She has degrees in both Psychology and Nutrition from Western University, Canada.

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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