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Stretching like Helen Mirren could help you lose belly fat, according to research

Writer: MATT EVANS | Outlet: Fit and Well

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If there's one tip to staying active as you get older, it's to stretch. Many people simply don't take the time to stretch for even a few minutes every day, which is a shame: if we go from an office chair to our car to our sofa, our range of motion decreases and we'll suffer in our old age. But stretching can help us to lose belly fat and turn the clock back. 


Even if you're already an active, healthy adult or dedicated gym bunny, a daily stretching routine can increase your range of motion, reduce your risk of injuries and decrease soreness in your muscles. Our guide to stretching exercises is a good place to get started, but there's one very simple – but not necessarily easy – thing you can do right now. Try touching your toes. 


At least, that's the recommendation from Hollywood superstar Helen Mirren. From turns in The Queen to action franchises like Red and Fast & Furious, It's well-known Helen has long made use of the XBX workout plan, a series of 12 simple calisthenics exercises created by the Canadian Air Force, in order to get fit in preparation for her roles, and it's a practice she still uses. 


Mirren's great flexibility is testament to the effectiveness of her workout plan. As we get older, our muscles shorten, limiting our range of motion. We've all seem elderly people shuffle along with very limited motion, bent double. Regular stretching helps keep those muscles long, actively fighting against the process of aging. It also reduces acute inflammation in our bodies according to science, helping us live longer. 


Mirren recommends touching your toes (or getting as far down as you can) five times a day, eventually working your way to placing your palms flat on the floor. However, if you're looking for more structured flexibility exercises, yoga is great for anyone looking to get into stretching. 


Combining core exercise, stretching and meditation, it's perfect for reducing the production of a hormone called cortisol. Known as the "stress hormone", cortisol induces feelings of fight-or-flight panic in addition to encouraging our bodies to cling onto fat. Yoga not only lengthens our muscles, but regular yoga practice reduces the production of cortisol as effectively as anti-depressant drugs, according to studies


All you need is a set of comfortable clothes, including some of the best workout leggings if you're feeling trendy) and yoga mats to get started. Not only will you be able to touch your toes at 75, you'll also feel happier in general. You can also find more detail on Helen Mirren's XBX workout here.