The stereotypical activities for losing weight that often come to mind are vigorous, calorie-burning exercises such as swimming, jogging, running, cycling, hiking, kayaking, tennis, aerobic dancing, rope-jumping, snow shoveling, martial arts, many sports such as soccer, basketball, and even more moderate activities such as vacuuming and other housecleaning, lawn mowing, badminton, or shopping. Here’s a chart of some of those activities you might consider – or already enjoy, sorted by light, moderate and vigorous physical activity. It would ill-advised to suggest against participation in some healthy mix of activities such as these on a regular – weekly if not daily – basis, to keep our bodies fit and healthy.
Most of these can add to the number of daily ‘steps’ that accumulate on mobile apps we have on our smart phones and wrist devices such as FitBit and Apple Watch (which, by the way, might be a great way to motivate yourself to get those daily constitutional walks in … when part of a comprehensive plan that considers nutrition and other factors – in isolation, technology alone may or may not be helpful.
… but how about yoga and other stretching/breathing activities? Some of the many benefits for doing exercises are detailed in this article: The Surprising Way Gentle Yoga Poses Can Help You Lose Serious Weight. A telling quote from this article points to the possibilities:
It may sound like hype at first: “Melt fat without breaking a sweat!” Even scientists who’ve done some of the key studies recognize the disconnect. The weight loss that happens with gentle yoga isn’t due to the typical causal pathways, in which you burn more calories than you take in, says Alan Kristal, lead researcher in an ongoing study at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Nonetheless, promising results continue to roll in. In Kristal’s study of more than 15,000 adults in their 50s, overweight people who did yoga at least once a week for 4 or more years lost an average of 5 pounds, while those who didn’t practice packed on an average of 13.5—a difference of nearly 20 pounds.
Here are a few reasons why any exercise and nutritional program can be enhanced by including some balanced stretching activities to complement the other aspects of a healthy regimen:
- Mindfulness – becoming more aware of thoughts can change all sorts of behavior, not just in the kitchen or grocery store; proactive focus on positive intentions ‘rubs off’ in other areas
- Interconnectedness – “Changes in the body change the mind, which changes behavior, which reinforces changes in both mind and body.”
- Brain ‘re-wiring’ to transcend obsessing, compulsive, craving behavior – observation of mind and body (objectively, calmly, without condemnation) can minimize self-sabotage and emphasize self-compassion: “…Instead of saying ‘I hate you’ to my body, I started to say ‘I love you.’ “
- Re-assignment of where calories go … keeping your shape ‘in shape’ helps your nutrition go where it does the most good. – “Fat collects where we want it least—the stomach—in part when levels of a so-called stress hormone, cortisol, rise. Not surprisingly, yoga has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, presumably making it easier to shed belly fat.”
- Keeping the body limber, flexible, and resilient minimizes risk of illness and maximizes opportunities to enjoy and benefit from other exercises.
- Minimize depression
- Versatility: yoga works while you’re watching TV or listening to the radio or a podcast, and you can practice almost anywhere there’s a bit of empty floor space… It helps to have some instruction (in person classes and/or instructional videos, etc.), but once you have the basics it works for anyone regardless of age or attire – How about a morning yoga practice in your sweat clothes while watching a favorite show recorded the night before?
The same Prevention.com article cited above also provides this helpful infographic which summarizes some of the benefits of yoga nicely:
Less Stress -> Less Craving -> Less Belly Fat -> More Movement ->Better Sleep -> More Mindfulness
Happy stretching! 🙂