People deal with stress in many different ways, whether it’s a personal journal, meditation, or simply leaning on a friend. Although it may not be your first instinct to hit the gym at a time of high anxiety, there are exercises that are great for combatting stress. Exercising is not only a good way to distract yourself from your problems, but studies have also found that exercise reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to Harvard Health. Working out also produces endorphins that give you a natural high and a temporary distraction from whatever is bothering you.
“Exercises are great ways to quickly blow off steam, but they become even more beneficial — as stress-reducers and otherwise — if you can make them a daily habit,” Dr. Glenn Laffel, MD, PhD, founder and CEO of Wellcoin says to Bustle over email. In fact, studies have shown that frequent exercise can help reduce anxiety and depression and lessen your chances of developing it over the next few years, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Even just a 10-minute walk a day can help elevate your mood.
The next time you’re feeling a little overly stressed out, try participating in one of these seven workouts, which are the best for fighting off your pesky anxiety.
“It’s probably no surprise to you that yoga is one of the best workouts for combatting stress,” says Laffel. “Yoga is a mind and body exercise that involves poses or postures, controlled breathing and relaxation. Yoga not only helps de-stress our minds, but it also helps to reduce musculoskeletal tension and spasm that can build up in key areas of our bodies, like the neck, shoulders, back, face, jaw, fingers and wrists.”
Any exercise that elevates your heart rate is a great way to reduce stress. “When your heart rate is elevated, your brain naturally releases endorphins — the feel good neurotransmitters that reduce the perception of stress and provide many with a sense of euphoria — the so-called ‘runner’s high,” says Laffel.
3. Tai Chi
Tai Chi was originally developed by the Chinese for self-defense, and it consists of a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner accompanied by deep, controlled breathing. “The movements require gentle stretching, rotating, and twisting which help muscles relax in much the same way yoga does,” says Laffel.
“Don’t forget that many household chores like raking leaves, sweeping, or mopping floors, or snow shoveling, do count as exercise, and will have the same physiological effect as swimming, running, walking or dancing,” says Laffel. Plus, you get the added de-stressing bonus that you actually got a chore done.
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Like running, dancing is a cardiovascular activity that gets your heart rate up and endorphins flowing. Studies have found that dancing is not only good for reducing stress, but it also may be more powerful than other exercises or meditating alone.
Ever felt so stressed you could just punch something? You could just try kickboxing instead. Kickboxing is an excellent way to release any stress or aggravation, and it not only is a great source of cardio, but it works many muscles in the body, helping you to feel stronger both physically and mentally.
Since much of the practice relies on focusing on your breath, pilates is a great stress manager, for both your peace of mind and also for your muscles. Like yoga, pilates puts the focus on mental concentration, which can be a great way to help you deal with stress.
Ready, set, de-stress.