Why RELAXING is more important for weight loss than you think – and how often you need to chill out

If so, you may be relieved to hear that the biggest fitness trend right now is…relaxation.

Yep, finally the fitness industry has cottoned onto the fact that all that frantic running around only does so much for our quality of life and our fat-busting goals.

Which is why we're being increasingly encouraged to kick back, unplug and breath deeply.

Relaxation is crucial for burning body fat

We've said this before, but overworking and not getting enough downtime absolutely wrecks your body's ability to burn fat.

We know that emotions are manifested in our gut and abdomen, with many trainers these days believing that those of us who have a higher storage of fat in that area have it because we're exposed to prolonged bouts of stress.

Stress comes in many different forms but one of those is physical stress and working out at a high intensity every day is just that.

If you're mega busy exercising, working or running around after kids, the chances are that you're not giving your body a chance to properly recover.

Laurence Fountain is the founder of Salus London and specialises in body transformations by way of re-balancing stress.

He previously told The Sun: "Cortisol (the stress hormone) is going to interfere with different hormonal effects," he told us.

"Firstly, it’s going to interfere with your thyroid – meaning it’s going to be very hard to burn fat when your cortisol is high. In fact, you’re going to be more likely to burn muscle."

Too much cortisol can also make us overproduce ghrelin – the hunger hormone – which makes it impossible for you to control your appetite and stay away from simple sugars and high-fat foods.

The result is that the body clings to fat (because it's not sure if it's about to experience a period without food) and also muscle.

It's also great for protecting your mental health

Many of us work out in order to look and feel better. If you overwork, however, our sense of proportionality goes out of the window. That's when our self-image does down and we start circling the drain of anxiety.

Giving yourself a break and making sure that you're eating good, nutritious food, can help to restore mental balance.

Foods like salmon, dark chocolate, berries, yoghurt, chickpeas and soybeans are all supposed to be great for helping the body deal with stress.

Which is why gyms are investing in relaxing

Right now, relaxation is big money.

Boutique gyms like No 1 Fitness have just invested in relaxation areas, while chains like Virgin Fitness have dedicated mind and body studios to help people unwind and stretch out.

Luxury saunas like Glow Bar offer people the chance to sweat out their stresses in beautiful wooden cubicles with high-end products before tucking into moon milk lattes and CBD truffles in the cafe.

Everywhere you look, businesses are tapping into the concept of slowing down.

"The main point of recovery during exercise is to allow your muscles to repair," said PT Keith McNiven, founder of Right Path Fitness.

He told us: "There’s plenty you can do to help move the process along or speed it up, with popular relaxation methods now offered in many gyms and studios such as luxury wet, dry and aromatherapy saunas.

"You can also get a massage, which will loosen up your muscles, increase oxygen and blood flow, and remove lactic acid build-up, or try cryotherapy, a growing trend in the fitness industry – it can treat tissue damage and decrease inflammation in the body."

And professional sports people are more open about their rest and recovery

You might think that all those mega slim and toned influencers online and athletes are working out all the time…but they really aren't.

Victoria's Secret models are said to concentrate on having massages ahead of the big show, to compliment all the working out that they do.

Tennis superstars Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic are fans of cryotherapy – a machine that goes down to freezing temperatures to promote muscle healing and pain relief as well as weight loss (although the results for the latter aren't yet confirmed).

Professional athletes have active rest days, where they're still moving but not putting pressure onto their bodies.

But if you're not training for the Olympics , you can totally afford to schedule in a couple of days of absolute R&R.

You need to carve out time for it

"It’s recommended to have at least a few days rest from training every week, so you can put maximum effort into training without feeling fatigued. By doing this, you’ll get better results long-term," said Keith.

"Having said that, each body responds differently – those who exercise more frequently, and have done so for a long time, are occasionally in less need of recovery time.

"I always suggest you try a few different forms of relaxation and find out which is best for you – what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another."

Keith says that if your aim is to lose weight, you can't just keep pushing yourself in the gym to achieve that.

"Your body needs sufficient rest and relaxation, so that it can recover – when you integrate a good diet, regular exercise and a rest in-between, you see the best results.

"Whether that’s through spending time in the sauna after a workout or the odd session of cryotherapy, massage and or even just finding time for yoga or meditation, rest is key. This way, you can put in more effort into your workouts, burn more calories and effectively, experience faster fat loss.

"And it’ll help you sleep; poor sleep patterns have been linked to higher body mass index and weight gain."

How to do it yourself at home…

Relaxing can be hard work – especially if you've got loads of different people constantly demanding your time and attention.

1. Turn your phone off

Half the problem is that we're so contactable all the time. As soon as you can, turn off your phone at home and just enjoy being off-grid.

2. Set yourself a proper bedtime

Sleep is so crucial for wellbeing and fat loss. A lack of it has been found to really contribute to piling on the pounds, as well as poor mental health. So make sure you set a proper bedtime and don't get distracted by your laptop!

3. Download a meditation app

Apps like Headspace offer five, ten and 15-minute meditations for those of us who struggle to concentrate on switching off.

4. Have sex

While you shouldn't really be thinking about calories when you're getting hot and sweaty between the sheets, it is a good added bonus.

You're burning more calories whenever your heart rate is maintained at a higher than normal resting rate – and when you're having sex, your heart rate significantly increases.

It's also great at helping us relax and release our happy hormone.

5. Go to a sauna or have a hot bath

A hot bath twice a week has been found to be "better than exercise" for easing depression, and is great for taking down stress in general.

6. Use a foam roller or tennis ball to relieve tension
Your muslces can get super tight if you're exercising regularly or walking around. Foam rollers can help to release the tension and they're quite cheap (like this one, £10, from Amazon).

A really great tension reliever is getting a hard ball and standing on it, rolling your foot over it so that it irons out every part of your plantar fascia – your soul. It might be a little painful but concentrate on the parts of your soul that do feel sore and the next day, you'll feel like you've got a new pair of feet.

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