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​Reduce Stress through Exercise

Posted by Lisa Edwards on

Regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever. In times of excessive stress, it very well may be the last thing you feel like doing. However, the best way to lift your mood, increase energy, sharpen focus, and relax both the mind and body is through regular exercise.

Some of the best stress reducing exercises are:

  1. High-Energy Activities- Aerobic exercise like running, zumba or spinning include an increased heart rate. When your heart rate is accelerated, your body releases endorphins which naturally make you feel good. These activities help you feel better physically and mentally. Try to get at least 30 minutes of heart-pounding activity on most days. If it’s easier to fit into your schedule, break up the activity into two or three shorter segments.
  2. Yoga- Yoga postures are a form of strength training, making you more resilient and flexible, which in turn relieves physical tension. It also uses deep breathing, which triggers the body’s relaxation response. Perhaps yoga’s biggest benefit is the mental focus it promotes which is key to stress reduction.
  3. Tai Chi- Linking physical movement to breath, Tai Chi increases flexibility, boosts energy and leads to a improved sense of well being.  Other benefits include better balance, more restful sleep and increased cardiovascular fitness. Tai Chi calms the mind, conditions the body and decreases stress.
  4. Walking- Without a doubt the easiest to do, walking requires no instruction or special equipment. Walking frequently reduces the incidence of many of the stress-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Five or six 30-minute walks a week are usually recommended to maintain health and reduce stress.
  5. Pilates- Best known for reducing back and neck pain, Pilates is a series of controlled movements and mat exercises that builds up strength, flexibility and endurance. Pilates is anaerobic and a great stress reliever. Muscular tension is less likely to take hold when focused on strengthening and lengthening your muscles.
  6. Kickboxing- Kickboxing is a powerful way to release energy, frustration and stress. It involves controlled punching and kicking movements, while improving balance, flexibility and coordination.
  7. Team Sports-One of the best ways to fit exercise into your schedule is to round up friends and family and organize a game of football, basketball, or soccer. Not only are you having fun with loved ones, but you’re also working up a sweat and releasing endorphins.
  8. Take It Outdoors-Long-distance running, biking, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor activities provide a change of scenery and a dose of fresh air; both can help clear your mind. Outdoor settings such as mountains, a biking trails, or a neighborhood parks are beautiful settings to lift your mood and mix up your workout routine.

Here are just a few suggestions, and there are many more. According to the ADAA (Anxiety and Depression Association of America), “Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.” The benefits are endless.

Consult with your doctor. If you haven't exercised for some time and you have health concerns, you may want to talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. As with any new fitness program, build up your level gradually to avoid possible injury.