A quick summary:
Some people can work well under stress and some even enjoy it. But most of us don't and we need some way of blowing off steam to enjoy our lives. In this article, we will take a look at relieving stress in your life through exercise. If you stick to exercising and make it a habit you will not only see physical benefits but also positive mental changes.
Most people may not associate Yoga with exercise, but it's harder than it looks. Yoga postures are a form of bodyweight training. When you participate in Yoga you make your body stronger and more flexible. The biggest benefit you get from Yoga is that it allows you to focus your mind through breathing techniques. The breathing techniques put your body into a state of relaxation. Pregnant women, when giving birth, use breathing techniques to take their focus off the pain. The same concept applies, but instead of physical pain, you are blocking out anxious thoughts through your breathing.
2. Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a Chinese tradition that is based on martial arts that uses deep breathing techniques and slow movements to help reduce stress and anxiety. Unlike some of the other exercises on this list, Tai Chi is useful for those who have mobility issues as it has a much lower impact on the body compared to other forms of exercise.
Tai Chi has many forms and if you are looking to join a Tai Chi class you will probably come across the following types:
- Yang Tai Chi (Slow movements, great for beginners)
- Wu Tai Chi (Focuses on micro-movements, a slower pace than Yang)
- Chen Tai Chi (For intermediate practitioners)
- Sun Tai Chi (Least physically demanding, fewer kicks and crouching)
Tai Chi and Yoga are quite similar as they both use deep breathing to cut away the stress, but from personal experience, Tai Chi is a little easier to get involved in and has a gentle learning curve. If you are able-bodied, either is accessible to you, but if you are a little older or have injuries I would suggest taking up Tai Chi first.
Boxing has many benefits including being able to physically defend yourself, losing weight and increased self-confidence. When it comes to stress, there is nothing better than throwing some punches at a heavy bag. When hitting a punching bag your body releases endorphins (the feel-good hormones) and your muscles relax. As you hit the punching bag more, your focus will be on the bag and this focus helps you forget about all the reasons you were stressed in the first place. You can take it a step further if you're brave enough. You can step into the ring and spar against another person. Being in a physical fight will get your adrenaline going, and keep your focus just on the fight.
4. Weight Lifting
Lifting weights releases any tension caused by stress and gives you a mental strength that wasn't there before. If you lift heavy in the gym it's going to cause your muscles to tear, this increases the endorphin production in your body which makes you feel good. Compound exercises which use multiple muscle groups are known for releasing the most endorphins.
These exercises include:
- Bent over barbell rows
5. Circuit Training
Circuit training incorporates weight lifting with cardio but often in a shorter time period at a higher intensity. This higher intensity releases endorphins into your bloodstream and gives you the benefits of working for longer periods at a shorter time. Circuit training is great for those who want to de-stress and get more active but don't have the time to spend 2 hours in the gym. A good circuit training routine can be done in 30 minutes and you can even do them at home. Being too busy can be enough to cause some people to be stressed out. Adding a long gym session can add to the problem. If you have no time, circuit training could be the exercise routine for you.
Circuit training routine:
Perform each exercise one after the other for 60 seconds, then have a 3-minute rest.
- Jumpin jacks
- Dumbbell rows (using a bag of shopping or a gallon of milk)
- Dips (use two chairs)
- Tricep dips (use one chair)
After your rest repeat this another twice (3 in total) and your routine is complete.
Why care about stress?
We consulted with Dr Majid Shah a skin care expert from the UK who had this to say: "From a physical point of view, stress can show in your skin, hair and even your fingernails. Stress can cause bags under the eyes, cause dry skin and even acne breakouts. Stress can also cause more serious conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity." As you can see, stress can cause serious conditions with our bodies that can be avoided or at least minimised. Everyone experiences stress in some form in their daily lives, it's how we manage it that counts.