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Somatic Exercises for Weight Loss: A Gentle Path to Wellness

Somatic exercise is becoming a buzzword in the world of weight loss and wellness. But what exactly are somatic exercises? The term “somatics” comes from the Greek word “soma”, which means “of the body”. Therefore, the definition of “somatic” is “of, related to, or affecting the body”. This approach was initially developed by Thomas Hanna and emphasizes a bottom-up methodology. Unlike other approaches that start with the mind, somatic exercises use the body as the entry point to understand, resolve, and improve our mental well-being. 

Are Somatic Exercises Good for Weight Loss?

One of the key ways somatic exercises support weight loss is by addressing stress and the impact it has on the body. Stress is a common contributor to overeating and weight gain, primarily due to the hormone cortisol (1, 2). When we’re stressed, our bodies produce more cortisol, which can lead to increased appetite and cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods (3). This response is a survival mechanism, but in modern life, it often results in unhealthy eating habits and weight gain.

Somatic exercises help reduce stress and lower cortisol levels through mindful movement and relaxation techniques (4). By focusing on slow, controlled movements and paying attention to how the body feels, practicing somatic exercises can activate the body’s relaxation response. This can lead to a decrease in cortisol production, reducing stress and its associated negative effects on eating behaviors and weight gain.

See also
Best Somatic Exercise Program: Your Guide to Wellness

The Science Behind Somatic Exercises and Cortisol Reduction

Research has shown that practices that promote mindfulness and body awareness, such as somatic exercises, can significantly reduce stress levels and lower cortisol production (5, 6 ).

Dance Movement Therapy

Dance movement therapy (DMT) is a type of somatic therapy that combines expressive movement with psychological insights to enhance physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Some studies have found DMT can effectively lower cortisol levels, which are often elevated due to stress (7). For example, a study showed that DMT significantly reduced cortisol levels in elderly participants, indicating its potential to mitigate stress and improve overall health (8, 9 ). The movement and expression involved in DMT help release physical tension and promote a sense of relaxation, which directly influences cortisol production.

somatic exercises for weight loss  

Body Scan Exercises

Body scan exercises, another form of somatic practice, involve paying close attention to different parts of the body, usually from head to toe, and noticing any sensations without judgment. This practice enhances body awareness and mindfulness, which can lead to stress reduction (10, 6). Research has shown that body scan exercises can reduce stress and lower cortisol levels. One study found that participants who engaged in body scan meditation experienced significant reductions in cortisol levels (11). The focused attention and mindfulness cultivated during body scan exercises help activate the body’s relaxation response, which counteracts the stress response and reduces cortisol production.

See also
11 Somatic Grounding Exercises For When You Need To Manage Your Triggers

By incorporating somatic exercises into a regular routine, you can experience similar benefits. These exercises encourage mindful movement and a deep connection with the body, which can help reduce chronic stress and its physiological markers. Regularly practicing somatic exercises can lead to a more balanced autonomic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing the frequency and intensity of the stress response.

Creating a Balanced Relationship with Food and Body

The stress-reducing effects of somatic exercises can also lead to healthier eating habits and a more balanced relationship with food. High stress levels and elevated cortisol can trigger cravings for high-calorie, sugary foods, which contributes to weight gain. By lowering cortisol levels through somatic exercises, individuals may find it easier to make mindful, healthy food choices and avoid stress-induced overeating.

Something tells us you often forget to put all the everyday hustle and bustle on hold and simply concentrate on yourself. It’s time to straighten out your priorities! Take a moment to heal , process your emotions, ground yourself, release all the pent-up tension and recharge with the BetterMe: Meditation & Sleep app before getting back into the race of life!

Do Somatic Workouts Really Help Lose Weight?

Reducing Stress: High stress levels can lead to overeating and weight gain. Somatic exercises promote relaxation and reduce stress, which helps prevent stress-related weight gain.

See also
Somatic Exercises for Hips: Unlock Hip Health with Somatic Exercises for Flexibility and Mobility

Improving Body Awareness: Enhanced body awareness leads to healthier movement and eating habits. Understanding your body’s needs will help you make smarter choices.

Enhancing Physical Activity: Although gentle, somatic exercises improve flexibility, strength, and balance, which makes engaging in other forms of exercise easier. This is an excellent way for someone who is new to exercising to start.

Alleviating Pain: By reducing chronic pain and discomfort, somatic exercises encourage more consistent physical activity, which is essential for weight loss. If you have pain or discomfort that prevents you from doing traditional exercises, try somatic exercises or consult a somatic therapist for movement exercises such as the Alexander Technique (12).

How Do I Start Somatic Exercise?

To start somatic exercises, follow these steps:

  1. Research: Look for online resources, books, or classes that teach somatic exercises. Popular methods include the Feldenkrais Method and the Alexander Technique, in addition to home practices such as grounding techniques and body scans.
  2. Find a Class or Instructor: If possible, find a certified somatic instructor who can guide you through the movements and ensure you’re practicing correctly.
  3. Practice at Home: Incorporate simple somatic exercises into your daily routine. Focus on slow, mindful movements and pay attention to how your body feels.
  4. Stay Consistent: Regular practice is the key to experiencing the benefits of somatic exercises.

How Often Should You Do Somatic Exercises?

For the best results, you should aim to practice somatic exercises daily or several times a week. Consistent practice helps reinforce the connection between your mind and body, which enhances overall effectiveness. Each session should last approximately 20-30 minutes, as short, regular sessions are often more beneficial than infrequent, longer ones. Starting with brief exercises will help you become more aware of your body sensations. This consistent, mindful practice deepens body awareness and promotes relaxation, which makes the exercises more effective in achieving their intended benefits.

See also
The Benefits of Somatic Exercises: Elevate Your Physical and Mental Well-being 

What Is a Somatic Workout Plan?

A somatic workout plan may look like this: Start with a warm-up of gentle movements to increase body awareness and prepare your muscles. Then, dive into various somatic exercises, which can range from grounding techniques and breath work to body scans, yoga, or dancing. Every workout plan may differ, with some focusing on specific exercises such as the pelvic clock, arch and curl, and diagonal reach. Finally, cool down with relaxation techniques and mindfulness exercises to integrate the movements and sensations, leaving you feeling balanced and refreshed.

Read more: Somatic Healing Techniques: A Holistic Approach to Physical and Emotional Recovery

Try this brief somatic exercise at home:

Body Scan Exercise

  1. Find a Comfortable Position: Lie down or sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed or at a soft gaze.
  2. Focus on Your Breath: Take a few deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
  3. Start at Your Feet: Bring your attention to your feet. Notice any sensations, tension, or relaxation, without any judgment. 
  4. Move Upward: Gradually move your attention up through your body—ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, lower back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, hands, neck, and finally your head.
  5. Observe Sensations: As you focus on each body part, observe any sensations without judgment. Simply notice and acknowledge them. If you observe any discomfort, take a deep breath in and let it all out. 
  6. Finish: Take a final deep breath, bringing your awareness back to the room, and open your eyes.
See also
How To Use Somatic Breathing Exercises To Manage Stress

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somatic exercises for weight loss  

FAQs

  • What is the difference between HIIT and somatic exercises?

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) revolves around short bursts of intense exercise followed by periods of rest, emphasizing weight loss, cardiovascular health, and overall fitness. In contrast, somatic exercises are characterized by low-intensity, mindful movements that are designed to enhance body awareness, alleviate chronic pain, and reduce stress. These exercises are gentle and promote relaxation, which keeps you focused on improving both physical and mental well-being through a holistic approach to fitness and health.

  • How long does it take for somatics to work?

Many experience noticeable improvements in body awareness and a heightened sense of relaxation after just a few sessions of somatic exercises. This initial awareness deepens with consistent practice over several weeks, which leads to more substantial and enduring benefits. Regular engagement with somatic exercises enhances physical flexibility and coordination and fosters a deeper connection between the mind and body. Over time, you may find yourself better equipped to manage stress, alleviate chronic pain, and create a more mindful approach to daily activities, thereby promoting overall mental and physical well-being.

  • Is it normal to feel tired after somatic exercise?

Feeling tired after somatic exercises is a normal response. These exercises are designed to release tension and promote relaxation, which can initially lead to a sense of fatigue as your body adapts to the new sensations and movements. This tiredness often indicates that the exercises are effectively helping your body unwind and relieve accumulated stress. Over time, as you continue with regular practice, you may notice increased energy levels and a deeper sense of relaxation as your body becomes more accustomed to the benefits of somatic exercises.

The Bottom Line

While somatic exercises may not directly lead to significant weight loss, they play a supportive role in a holistic weight management plan. By reducing stress, improving body awareness, and encouraging physical activity, somatic exercises can help create a foundation for healthier lifestyle choices. For effective weight loss, you should combine somatic exercises with a balanced diet and regular cardiovascular and strength-training workouts.

Embrace the gentle, mindful approach of somatic exercises as part of your journey to a healthier, more balanced life.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Stress-related cortisol response and laboratory eating behavior in obese women (2015, link.springer.com)
  2. Stress-related thinking predicts the cortisol awakening response and somatic symptoms in healthy adults (2013, sciencedirect.com)
  3. Cortisol reactivity and distress-induced emotional eating (2013, sciencedirect.com)
  4. The effect of various physical exercise modes on perceived psychological stress: original research (2014, journals.co.za)
  5. CORTISOL DECREASES AND SEROTONIN AND DOPAMINE INCREASE FOLLOWING MASSAGE THERAPY (2009, tandfonline.com)
  6. Mindfulness Is Associated With Lower Stress and Higher Work Engagement in a Large Sample of MOOC Participants (2021, frontiersin.org)
  7. Dance your stress away: comparing the effect of dance/movement training to aerobic exercise training on the cortisol awakening response in healthy older adults (2018, tandfonline.com)
  8. DANCE-MOVEMENT THERAPY LEADS TO A LOWER CORTISOL AWAKENING RESPONSE—A SIGN OF STRESS REDUCTION? (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Stressed Out and Stressed In: Regulating the Stress Response at an Endocrine Level through Dance/Movement Therapy (2022, digitalcommons.slc.edu)
  10. The Effect of Somatic Awareness Exercise on the Chronic Physical Manifestations of the Stress Response (2012, proquest.com)
  11. Effects of an 8-Week Body Scan Intervention on Individually Perceived Psychological Stress and Related Steroid Hormones in Hair (2019, link.springer.com)
  12. Alexander Technique classes improve pain and performance factors in tertiary music students (2020, sciencedirect.com)
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