Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. “When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that fight stress. Exercise helps you get your mind off your problems and clears your head. Remember that: Stress isn’t just a mental or emotional issue – it can physically hurt too.
Chronic tension can be the culprit behind both long-term conditions (depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure) and everyday health woes (headaches, back pain, insomnia, upset stomach, anxiety, anger). Stress isn’t gender-neutral either. Crashing on your sofa isn’t the answer. Sweat it out instead. Here are ways to heighten your energy and beat stress:
Tai Chi is derived from an ancient Chinese martial art, tai chi (also known as tai chi chuan) links physical movement to the breath. Often called “meditation in motion,” tai chi promotes a focus on the present – a mental absorption in which everyday worries fall away. Tai chi also increases flexibility and boosts energy, which result in an improved sense of well-being. Other benefits of Tai Chi include better balance, more restful sleep and increased cardiovascular fitness.
This type of exercise is similar to Tai Chi. Qigong is considered one of the cornerstones of Chinese medicine, along with acupuncture and herbs.
Practicing qigong regularly can promote feelings of serenity, improve sleep and digestion, and increase energy. Like tai chi, qigong helps you be more present in your body. Its slow gentle movements and focus on moving in harmony with the breath are extremely relaxing to the nervous system.
This is by far the easiest way to combat stress and requires no classes or equipment. Walking frequently can reduce the incidence of many of the stress-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and type II diabetes. People with regular walking regimens also report reduced stress levels and a self-confidence that comes from taking an active role in their well-being.
Walking Tips: If you’re just getting started on walking for exercise, aim for two 10-minute walks a week. After two or three weeks, gradually increase the frequency and duration of your walks. Five or six 30-minute walks a week are usually recommended to maintain health and stress management.
Gardening is actually a low-impact workout. Weeding alone can burn 200 calories an hour. Gardening has the stress-busting bonus of putting you in contact with the earth, so while exercises and distressing you also grounding, in this way you refresh your spirit.
Gardening Tips: Start small. Even one or two herb plants grown on a sunny windowsill can increase your connection to nature.
For those of you who are gym addicts and fitness Fanatics do circuit training and alternate weight-training moves with cardio, with short rests in between. The result is a high-intensity workout that offers the same benefits of longer exercise sessions in less time (30 minutes or less). It’s short, sweat and pumps up your body’s endorphin level, which improves your mood. Better yet, you don’t have to stress about finding lots of time to fit a workout in.
Pilates is a series of exercises that emphasizes body awareness, core strength and proper alignment. With its equal focus on strengthening and lengthening muscles, Pilates creates a physical harmony that simply doesn’t allow stress to take hold as easily. Pilates is also known for reducing back and neck pain, another side effect of stress.
This sport is a great cardiovascular workout and can prevent many stress-related conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. This sport also keeps you connected to others (as you cannot play alone) – a key component of stress reduction.