When people think of stress-reducing exercises, the first thought that comes to mind perhaps is yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or some other form of mind-body exercises, also known as Somatic techniques. Makes sense. We’re often told to practice controlled-breathing, focus on our mind, body and soul and just relaaax for the best method of stress relief. I get it. Now, I am a huge advocate for mind-body exercises and the art of meditation that is embedded within these techniques; however, if you’re anything like some people, while you’re in that downward dog position, you’re thinking about what’s for dinner, tomorrow’s agenda, or if you completed that task that was due for work. Not quite productive and in fact, probably increases even more stress!
And what about running? When the heart rate is accelerated, your body releases endorphins. You know, the “feel good” substance – natural opiates that make you feel amazing with no side effects. And yes, that rhythmic flow of repetitive motion can put even the best of runners into a trance and that type of zoning out is perfection and the absolute epitome of stress relief. However, what if you’re a new runner? Thoughts that surely come to mind are: “Why on Earth am I doing this to myself?”, “What runner’s high?!” or “I’m just going to turn back and walk – this stinks”.
While these are all amazing techniques for stress reduction, what if you just want exercises that you can totally release and totally block the outside world for 45-60 minutes? Well you can do just that simply by choosing a different format of exercise. These 4 exercise formats will help you feel better physically and mentally all while reducing your stress. It requires complete concentration on the exercise or sport at hand and leaves no wiggle room for your mind to wander. You can make big strides towards stress management by choosing one of these formats (pun intended):
Kickboxing: Nothing relieves more stress than kickboxing! I mean, where else would you go to take out all of your frustrations via punches and kicks all while increasing your focus and cardiovascular strength? Kickboxing rank high amongst being the most productive, high-energy format for stress relief. And the best part is that little to no equipment is required so this format can easily be done at home.
Zumba: Or just about any choreographed exercise format including Step Aerobics, TurboKick, R.I.P.P.E.D., etc. You’ll be so concerned about not stepping on your neighbors toes or face-planting on the step and having FUN that not only will time fly, but directly combat your stress. This format is exponentially more valuable when conducted with a group. So grab a buddy and get dancing!
Skilled Sport: Always wanted to learn how to play tennis? Or complete a triathlon? Pick a sport you’ve always wanted to learn and train yourself in that sport. You’ll be so excited with the thrill of your new sport and focused on mastering the new techniques.
Cross Training: Switch it up! One of the highest compliments that can be paid to someone is to be labeled mentally tough. Cross Training requires mental toughness as it demands the attention of many different types of exercises. Whether you cross train within one workout session (Bike 20 min, Run 20 min, Ab workout 10 min) or choose a different format daily (Basketball Monday, Swim Tuesday, etc.), cross training not only maximizes your health benefits by challenging your body in different ways, but is also the ultimate combo for stress relief and management.
So, don’t get worked up over stress, instead work out and beat stress! With these 4 exercises, there is something for everyone. Remember stress may come and go and most certainly won’t be eliminated forever, so make the nearest bike path or gym your new habitat for when you need to unwind and release.