In this article, I will explain to you the relationship between exercise and stress. After reading this post you will know how and when to exercise to fight stress effectively.
Do you know that constant, ongoing stress can lead to illnesses and diseases like anxiety and depression, obesity, diabetes, asthma, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, headaches and migraines, insomnia, chronic fatigue and pain, and even early death?
It is scary, especially if you take into account that our life and work are full of continuous stress. Therefore, we desperately look for solutions. Some meditate. Some reach out for medication. Many do nothing thinking that high-stress level is a natural part of the life of a busy professional.
But there is an easy and healthy solution: physical exercise. There have been many studies done to prove that exercise is an effective way to reduce and manage the lasting negative effects of stress.
Let us first find out how exercise and stress relief are connected. After that, we will recommend the very best stress relief exercises and teach you how to include them in your daily routine.
What Experts Say About the Link Between Exercise and Stress
Usually referred to as the flight or fight response, there are a lot of things that happen inside your brain and body when you’re going through a stressful time at work. As your body begins to experience stress, your brain releases cortisol and adrenaline. These are the hormones responsible for your increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and the tensing of muscles.
Typically your body and mind start to calm down once the fear or the stressful situation has passed. However, if you keep experiencing stress on an ongoing basis, it could be detrimental to your health as well as your relationships with others because your body doesn’t have the proper amount of time to recover.
Regular exercise is proven to improve your mood by boosting your endorphins and balancing your hormones.
Another research done by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America used a poll to find that nearly 14% of people regularly use exercise to manage stress symptoms. The study stated that even just 5 minutes of exercise can produce positive effects and reverse some symptoms related to long term stress.
For example, maintaining a regular exercise program can relieve tension, improve your quality of sleep, and improve your self-confidence and self-worth. It is also recommended to find small amounts of time to exercise, even if it is just a 20- minute walk, according to this study.
The key to keeping up with regular exercising is to find something you enjoy doing. Even better, find multiple things you enjoy doing so that you can keep things interesting. It is also easier to keep a routine when you find a friend to exercise with.
What Are The Most Effective Stress Relief Exercises, according to Science?
Swimming is an excellent example of a stress relief exercise because it is high energy but low impact.
Swimming targets the whole body and all muscle groups, but there is very low stress on your muscles and joints. It is easy on the knees and elbows but whips you into shape quickly.
Most people prefer to swim in a pool, but getting into nature like the ocean or a lake is even more stress relieving, but always be aware of your surroundings and current conditions if you’re swimming in nature.
Science also says that a 6-weeks routine of aquatic aerobic, twice a week, is a great stress relief exercise.
Boxing is one of the most intense fitness programs you can do for stress relief. It is a total full body workout and involves a lot of agility and coordination.
Boxing instantly reduces stress, anxiety, and anger. There are many ways to incorporate boxing into your routine. You can find local classes that are a mix of stations and boxing, you can find a gym with a punching bag, or you can find classes to eventually get into sparring with someone else.
Running is another form of fitness that is high intensity and high impact but offers instant results. According to Science, running is an excellent stress relief exercise.
Running is easily accessible for everyone, even if it starts out as walking. Running should also be paired with deep stretching such as yin or restorative yoga to help protect your joints.
There are SO many types of yoga out there that it can be very overwhelming to find a style or even teacher that suits you. It is great to mix and match styles so you can take full advantage of yogas benefits. The health benefits of yoga are extensive for mind, body, and soul.
Studies have shown that a regular yoga practice can lower more than just stress; it can also lower blood pressure. Yoga strengthens muscles and mind, and for some people, it has a spiritual element as well. Yoga can help you lose or maintain weight, and it improves your overall health, no matter what style you practice.
Here you have different types of yoga for stress relief:
– Vinyasa: Vinyasa is translated to “linking breath with movement”. This style of yoga flows from one pose to the next and focuses a lot on the breath. It is a very active, high energy and high paced style of yoga and is commonly practiced in a heated room.
– Ashtanga: Ashtanga style is one of the more traditional practices and focuses on the 8 limbs of yoga. Ashtanga also uses breath and movement to create flow throughout the practice. Ashtanga differs from Vinyasa because the same poses are practiced in the same sequence and at a moderate pace.
– Iyengar: Iyengar focuses heavily on the alignment of poses. This style also uses props such as blocks, bolsters, and straps, encouraging you to go deeper and deeper into your current pose.
– Bikram: Bikram Yoga is always taught in a room heated to 105 degrees with 40% humidity. The same 26 poses are always practiced along with 2 breathing exercises and there is a heavy focus on alignment.
– Power: Power Yoga can best be described as a mix between the vinyasa and ashtanga styles with a little pilates thrown in. It is a rigorous practice guaranteed to get your heart pumping and build muscle.
– Yin: Yin style of yoga focuses on a deep stretch that gets down into your connective tissues. This class style is extremely passive and is excellent for flexibility. There is no flow in this class and poses are held from 1-5 minutes.
– Restorative: Restorative Yoga focuses on restoring the body, whether that is from an injury or just a long day it aims to bring the body back to being healthy.
Here you have a Beginner Yoga Routine To Reduce Stress and Anxiety:
Tai-chi is another stress relief exercise baked by Science that involves the mind, body, and breath practiced with controlled movements. Tai-Chi improves fitness and flexibility, builds muscle strength as well as coordination and helps fight chronic pain.
There are also several styles of Tai-Chi and they are pretty accessible to everyone. Tai-chi is a really great way to connect the mind body and soul, releasing stress from everything.
Here you have different styles of Tai-Chi for stress relief:
– Chen Style: This style of Tai-Chi involves movements such as jumps, kicks, and strikes with a focus on strength and agility.
– Yang Style: Yang style is passive and graceful. It involved contracting your body with exaggerated movements.
– Wu Style: This type of tai-chi incorporates leaning forward and backward, using the back leg for stability.
– Sun Style: The Sun style of tai-chi looks more like a dance, Sun style of tai-chi involves footwork and hand movements linked together with breath and flowing movements.
Here you have a Tai-Chi routine for stress relief:
6. Breathing and Meditation Exercises
A study done by Harvard has shown that in addition to the benefits of physical exercise when it comes to reducing stress, breathing, and meditation exercises are also effective.
Breathing exercises may even be more instantly effective than physical exercise because it is always accessible. Breathing and meditation can be done anywhere at anytime.
Breathing stress relief exercises are easy to learn and can be used in a myriad of situations. They can provide instant relief from stress and anxiety without much effort or notice from others around you.
Breathing techniques are a power tool to have in your stress relieving belt.
– Equal Breath: True to the name, this practice involves inhaling and exhaling through your nose for the same amount of time. For example, as you inhale through your nose, slowly count to 8 and then slowly exhale through your nose for the same count of 8.
– Alternate Nostril Breathing: Using your right hand, hold your right nostril closed with your thumb and inhale through your left nostril, pause, close your left nostril and exhale through your right. You can repeat this over and over until you feel stress symptoms receding.
– Ujjayi Breath: This practice involves slowly inhaling through your nose, filling your lungs and belly before exhaling back out through your nose.
– Guided Meditation: Guided meditations are an instant relief and help train you to slow your mind and thoughts down.
How to Incorporate the Stress Relief Exercises in Your Daily Agenda
– In the morning, to de-stress before an important presentation at work, we propose a short guided meditation and couple breathing exercises.
This can be as soon as you wake up, on your way to work or right before your presentation. Even all three if you are extremely stressed.
– In the afternoon, to reduce your stress levels after a stressful call with a client, we propose to go out and take a walk for at least 20 minutes. Ideally, you would get out into nature and leave your phone behind.
Even if you can’t get a walk in, stepping outside in the sunshine for a few moments will help reduce stress levels. If it’s raining or nasty weather, try going to the gym, we propose to use the treadmill, bike or stepper.
Even just 15 will help minimize stress symptoms.
– In the evening, after a long, stressful day at work. Get yourself to a yoga or boxing class. Get an intense cardio session for at least 30-40 minutes and you will really feel the day melt away.
Make sure to drink plenty of water and while getting into the habit of working out after (or before) a long day is difficult, it pays off in the long run when your quality of health improves.
The connection between exercise and stress has been proven and backed by science. We know now that any regular workout or fitness program will help you better regulate your stress levels in addition to many other health benefits.
These benefits include but are not limited to weight loss, increased metabolism, lower blood pressure, increased strength and flexibility, increased focus and concentration and better self esteem. Instant relief from stressful situations can include breathing exercises and meditation.
There are an infinite amount of workouts to choose from, not just the six on this list. The key is to find the right stress relief exercises for you, find several you like so you can always mix it up and never get bored. Hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, dancing, zoomba, surfing, snowboarding, skateboarding, etc. can all be considered exercises. Anything that helps you refocus your energy will do wonders for stress management.
In addition to these stress relief exercises, things like learning new hobbies, painting or coloring, journaling, volunteering your time at an animal shelter or soup kitchen or even just getting coffee or drinks with your closest friends can also lower your stress levels.
Interested in Other Highly Effective Stress Relief Tools? Check out the following posts:
Comment below with your favorite stress relief exercise.