These days, humans just don't move enough, period. And it's a huge contributor to stress. We buy gym memberships and don't go, we sign up for classes we don't take. Not only do our bodies suffer, but our mental states do as well. Just how does not exercising contribute to stress? The systems of our bodies are intricately connected, while we tend to think of our emotions as a separate thing, they're regulated by these physical systems. They're chemical reactions in our brains. These chemicals can be regulated by a variety of coping mechanisms, but one of the best is exercise.
From releasing endorphins that give you a natural high, to relaxing your muscles, which eases mental tension, to giving a healthy outlet for that ancient flight or fight response our brains are hardwired for, exercise is the way and the life. Here's the good news: you don't necessarily have to spend hours at the gym ripping your muscles to reduce your stress levels. Any exercise can help alleviate stress and is better than nothing. And some (easy) forms of exercise relieve stress more than others. Read on to find out which ones!
You've been doing it since you were about one year old. It's literally second nature at this point, requiring no instruction. Oh, and it's free. Walking is easier on your joints than jogging and can provide serious stress relief. Running does produce endorphins, which is good, but it can also increase cortisol, a stress response. Walking doesn't. If you're just starting an exercise regimen and are looking to de-stress, take a walk! While 30 minutes per day is ideal, even five or 10 minutes of fresh air will do you good.
You might have seen elderly people doing this in the park. It stems from martial arts and is the practice of slow, deliberate body movements that flow easily from one to the other. The description sounds relaxing! Studies have shown it helps reduce stress and lowers blood pressure. Once you learn some moves, you can do it anytime, anywhere. Try it on your lunch break or…at the park. There are dozens of DVDs you can buy that teach you the ways of Tai Chi, in case you don't have an instructor near at hand.
Pliates and Yoga
You know these have been popular for some time. Some of our fittest celebs swear by them. If you'd like to relieve stress and tone up, Pilates is the way forward. These deliberate moves require concentration and stamina, they'll get your mind off your worries in a heartbeat. Yoga teaches you to breathe and pay attention to the beauty of our bodies in different positions, as well as gives you the gift of flexibility. In a fast-paced world, it's no wonder these exercises that teach slowing down and being present are so big in our biggest cities.
Krav Maga is a self-defense based school born out of Israel and Eastern Europe. It combines a number of martial arts and fighting techniques to neutralize an enemy in a dark alley. It's also fantastic exercise for your body and your mind. A Krav Maga class will have you leaving not only de-stressed, but more self-confident, which leads to a long term lessening of anxiety. Studies also show that exercise done in the presence of others relieves stress; it does double duty as a social activity. If your stress has you feeling angry instead of comatose in bed, Krav Maga is a healthy outlet for it.
Here's why you should join a gym with a pool: swimming is a full body workout that leaves you toned and healthy without grunting and sweating through a more intense workout you'll eventually procrastinate on and then quit. It also allows you to be in total control, choosing your strokes and speed. The floating sensation and fluid movements are one of the most relaxing ways to exercise you'll experience.
There are more types of stretches than you probably realize and it's a valid form of regular activity very few of us do. While most would assume it's a quick thing to do before a workout or that it'll leave you feeling limp and ready for bed, it can be incredibly energizing as a 20 or 30 minute routine. It pulls extra oxygen into your lungs and body and makes you feel limber, a stress reduction recipe. This is another exercise you can easily become more familiar with by purchasing a $10 DVD or two. There are lots devoted to the art of stretching and flexing.