Should I Do Stretching Exercises?

May 23, 2012

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StretchingFrom time to time my patients ask me if they should be doing stretching exercises and how they fit into an overall fitness plan for weight loss and maintenance.

Stretching is indeed a good activity to do, as it helps preserve flexibility and range of motion. For some of my patients who are morbidly obese and have not exercised in years, stretching exercises are a great place to start adding movement into their day

If you haven’t exercised or stretched in a while, check in with your doctor first before embarking on a new fitness plan. He or she can help show where to begin and how to increase your activity safely. Remember, even something as simple as stretching can lead to an injury if you try to stretch too far, too fast.

That said, I would not recommend making stretching the sole focus of your fitness plan. This activity alone will not raise your heart rate to a level needed to burn fat. To do this you’ll need to include cardio exercise. In addition to this, resistance training will help build muscle, which in turn keeps your metabolism burning more calories day and night.

Some people gear up for the cardio or resistance part of their workout by stretching, which can help prepare you mentally for the physical challenge ahead. Studies however, are unclear on whether stretching before vigorous exercise can protect you from injury.

If it has been a long time since you have exercised or stretched at all, you may even need to work your way up to stretching rather than jump right in. For my patients in this category I recommend they begin walking, gradually increasing the number of steps as their mobility improves.

Our immobile lifestyle is a major factor in our increasing obesity rates. By simply moving more and eating right, you can help shed excess weight and keep it off long term.

So if you are more of a couch potato than a fitness nut, don’t despair. Gradually build up your range of movement and before you know it you’ll be feeling better, looking better, and most important of all you’ll be healthier. And that’s no stretch!

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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