While any kind of exercise can lift your mood and brighten your spirits, certain forms are better at relieving stress than others.
Here are some of the best exercises for combatting stress, which have the added bonus of making you physically stronger and more mentally fit!
When you’re frustrated, anxious or stressed, there’s no better way than to take it out on a set of heavy weights!
But you always want to do it with care.
An injury will just add more stress to your life.
This is where programs such as Crossfit come in.
Crossfit is designed to not only challenge your body, but also your mind.
It encourages you to push yourself to your max (whatever that may be), ensuring that your workout never becomes boring or static.
The movements are designed to mimic those that you do every day such as squatting, pulling, pushing, lifting and picking up objects.
You do not have to be in great shape when you start.
In fact, the very reason for doing Crossfit is to help you get in shape!
Those who have been doing it a long time also had a beginning and were not always as fit as they are when you see them now at the gym.
Chances are, you are not the only one who started in a Crossfit program unable to do a push-up or climb a rope!
Crossfit is designed to be a full body workout, but it does emphasize proper weight lifting.
Classes generally feature a dynamic warm-up, such as doing jumping jacks, stretches, squats, lunges, or jumping rope, which all help you to better perform the movements required later, a skill or strength section that focuses on a particular movement such as squats or deadlifts, and a workout of the day (WOD).
This is the part that really tests your cardiovascular muscles as you are often required to complete a particular set of exercises within a certain timeframe.
Weight lifting involves much more mental power than you may think.
Have you ever tried to move a heavy piece of furniture with someone else?
You probably had to count, “one, two, three” before picking it up.
That counting prepped you to lift it because you were forced to concentrate before you did.
That concentration—however brief—took you away from everything that you were thinking about before you lifted the piece of furniture.
This is similar to what happens when you meditate on something.
During Crossfit, you really have to think about your body positioning to successfully complete the exercises.
You have to keep your abdominals tight, your back straight, your body aligned, and your head up.
That concentration takes you away from your own anxiety and stress and puts you in the mindset of challenging yourself to take on a task.
This ultimately leaves you with a lot of feel good hormones!
Tap into Your Inner Yogi
This one is more obvious, but still deserves a mention.
Yoga requires participants to practice deep breathing all while contorting their bodies into various positions that are designed to provide an excellent stretch for the body.
Often soft music is played in the background and users are asked to use quiet voices to say certain phrases that are designed to make them feel better and internally cleansed.
Some of the benefits of yoga’s stress-reducing poses include learning to control your breathing, being able to clear your mind, and doing stretching moves that help your muscles release tension.
Zumba Your Way to Happiness
Even though we can’t all be Shakira and J-Lo, there is no reason for them to have all the fun!
With its upbeat music and fancy footwork, Zumba, a Latin-inspired form of dance, can easily help lift your mood and relieve stress.
If you have never danced before, Zumba is not something you can learn overnight.
Classes are fast-paced with one instructor at the front who leads the class, but does not really stop to show participants exactly how to do the moves.
The challenge for participants is just to sometimes keep up, which involves copying the steps (in whatever way you can) all while continuing to keep MOVING!
You may feel silly at first as you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror moving awkwardly to the music, but don’t give up!
To learn the moves, you will have to concentrate—hard!—and this is part of how you relieve stress.
As with anything, learning a new skill such as dancing takes hard work, but usually results in a rush of endorphins!
Kick Out Those Bad Feelings
Just the thought of using kicking to get rid of stress sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it?
The routines of controlled kicks and punches can cause you to feel more powerful and more in control.
Your improved body image along with your improved mental stamina will work wonders toward helping to relieve your anxiety and stress.
And once you are done with a kickboxing workout, you just may feel like you won a boxing match!
Purify Your Mind and Body with Pilates
Pilates, which was developed by founder Joseph Pilates, will build strength without dramatically increasing the size of your muscles.
It relies on mind-body exercises that use a floor mat or various equipment to strengthen your thighs and abdomen, and make all of the rest of your muscles longer and leaner.
Those who practice it report that their bodies perform better and feel more balanced while doing everyday activities.
This form of exercise also has the added benefits of helping you to breathe properly, and keep your spine and pelvic areas aligned, as well as putting you more in tune with our body.
The quality of the movements you make are more important than the quantity of repetitions you do, which is why many people find it so beneficial and relaxing.
Step Forward and Repeat
No list would be complete without mentioning walking, running or biking.
These exercises are repetitive so they help to soothe the brain, which in turn relieves stress.
And although it’s awesome to head outdoors and hear the birds chirping and the breeze whistling through the trees, sometimes while exercising it helps to fill your head with your favorite tunes for an extra pick-me-up.
The fresh air is an added bonus, though, as it has been proven to provide an extra dose of endorphins to any workout!
Just Do It!
The most important goal of exercising to relieve stress is to pick an exercise that works for you and stick with it!
Exercising with regularity is key.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults fit in “at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.”
And always remember that any type of exercising that you do outside is a bonus!
Getting your body moving outdoors has been proven to add extra calm to any workout.
Live near the woods?
Why not hike or bike through them?
Live near the beach?
Both Yoga and Pilates are awesome exercises to do with the soothing sounds of waves in the background.
If you don’t feel comfortable breaking out moves on your own, downloading an app that will walk you through a specific routine is a great way to feel in control of your exercise program.
Ones such as Daily Yoga, 7 Minute Workout or AllTrails are some of the most popular.
If you have any questions ask them below.
I’m always happy to help!
Interested in learning about pressure points for anxiety?
Check out this article!