While some people wear stress as a badge of honor, we know that too much stress can lead to a host of health issues that can negatively affect your life. That’s why, in honor of Stress Awareness Month this April, we wanted to share the best exercises you can do to reduce your stress.
Exercise itself is a form of stress on the body, but the right amount of exercise for your individual needs is a good thing — helping you to become stronger and better able to handle all that comes your way.
Here are the top five exercises you can do to reduce your stress …
Dancing just makes people happy, because when you move your body freely, your mind feels freer too. You can try a Zumba class, do a belly dancing video at home and even take salsa lessons with your partner. Or, you can just put on some music and move your body however it feels right. Dancing is an amazing way to express your personality, be creative and connect with your body and good music, while at the same time relieving your stressed state. And dancing is most certainly a form of exercise — promoting all the benefits of physical movement, like lowering blood pressure, improving circulation and building cardiovascular health too.
Some people need to “work out” their stress, and for those types of people, kickboxing is a great option — full of challenging cardiovascular and coordination work. In a typical kickboxing workout, you can punch, kick, jump and sometimes even yell too — all forms of power and release for the body. Next time you attend a kickboxing class and you’re looking for a way to reduce your stress, try to create a visual in your mind of the things that are stressing you out and literally picture yourself punching, kicking and fighting those stressors out of your life.
One of the oldest forms of movement, yoga, is still one of the most beneficial, both for your body and mind. According to numerous studies, yoga can decrease the excretion of cortisol, one of the primary stressor hormones. In addition to that, yoga builds strength, improves your posture, increases your flexibility and helps your mind to calm down with the element of breathing and meditation. When you spend time focusing on your breath in yoga, you actually help your body move from the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight system) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest-and-digest system), ultimately leaving you feeling zen and grounded. There are many types of yoga, and if you’re looking to reduce your stress specifically, try a slow flow Vinyasa, Yin, Hatha or restorative yoga class rather than power, Bikram or Ashtanga, which are much more challenging and intense. (Source Healthline: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-benefits-of-yoga#section1.)
4. Walking or Running in Nature
There’s just something about the fresh air and beauty of greenery outdoors that helps to take the edge off a stressful state. Rather than hitting the treadmill or the pavement for your next outdoor jog or walk for exercise, we suggest heading to a tree-filled park or a trail so you can have full-on access to as many natural elements as possible. Studies show that spending even just a few minutes around trees can reduce your blood pressure and decrease cortisol and adrenaline (two of the stress hormones), in your system.
5. Tai Chi
What was once developed as a form of self-defense, Tai Chi, is now a gentle slow-paced form of martial arts exercise that is known to reduce stress, while also providing valuable flowing movement for the body. A typical Tai Chi flow moves from posture to posture in a fluid way, giving the body a chance to stretch, while also requiring you to focus on your breathing. This type of movement is perfect for reducing stress and taking your mind off whatever is bothering you too. You can sometimes find Tai Chi offered at local community centers, as well as via home streaming workout videos too.
No matter which option you choose, make sure you spend time actively trying to reduce your stress during Stress Awareness Month and beyond. Good luck!