Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress. “When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that fight stress,” says Frank Lupin, MS, ATC, PES, a certified athletic trainer and a personal trainer for Coordinated Health in Bethlehem, Pa. “Exercise helps you get your mind off your problems and clears your head,” adds Thomas Plante, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Santa Clara University in California. Here are eight different kinds of exercise that can heighten energy and provide stress relief.
The benefits of aerobic exercise — like running, dancing, spinning, and in-line roller-skating — include an increased heart rate. When your heart rate is accelerated, your body releases endorphins, natural opiates that make you feel good with no side effects. High-energy activities help you feel better physically and mentally. Just be sure to check with your doctor before starting any high-intensity workouts.
Yoga, an excellent stress-relief exercise, involves a series of moving and stationary poses, or postures, combined with deep breathing. A mind-body exercise, yoga can strengthen your body’s natural relaxation response and bring you into a healthy balance. For stress relief, do gentle yoga or yoga for beginners — popular “power yoga” classes may be too intense if your main goal is to ease stress.
Like yoga, tai chi is a series of self-paced, flowing body movements and breathing techniques. Although the movements have their roots in martial arts, they are meant to calm the mind and condition the body — making tai chi an excellent choice for stress relief. According to recent studies, this mind-body practice has many health benefits: Tai chi can help build bone density, lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, and even ease symptoms of conditions like heart failure, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Another advantage is that once you learn the moves, you can practice them anywhere and at any time — making it an easy activity for people of all ages to incorporate into everyday life.
Pilates, a series of controlled movements and mat exercises named after their creator, Joseph Pilates, is designed to build your strength, flexibility, and endurance — all of which makes practicing Pilates, an anaerobic (as opposed to aerobic) exercise, a great stress reliever. Pilates also tones your body, which in turn helps you look good and feel better, Plante says. You can take classes at a Pilates studio or at a gym, or use DVDs and home equipment if you prefer to practice on your own.
Another effective way to release energy, frustration, and tension is to learn and practice a martial art. There are many to choose from: Krav Maga, karate, judo, tae kwon do, and more. In addition to keeping you active, martial arts have other benefits; they teach you self-discipline, and the self-defense techniques you learn can make you feel safer.
Kickboxing is a powerful means of reducing stress. It involves controlled punching and kicking movements carried out with discipline. You can get quite a rigorous workout in a kickboxing class, and that’s only one of its excellent benefits. Kickboxing regularly will help improve your balance, flexibility, and coordination. It’s also a great way to work out frustration — having an outlet to release energy and anger can relieve stress.
Tennis, anyone? One of the best ways to fit exercise into your schedule is to round up friends and family and organize a game of football, basketball, or hockey — just three of many choices. You get a double dose of stress relief from participating in team sports: Not only are you having fun with loved ones, but you’re also working up a sweat and releasing endorphins. Exercising with friends or co-workers can also motivate you to push yourself a little harder in order to stay competitive.
Long-distance running, biking, cross-country skiing, and other outdoor activities provide a change of scenery and a dose of fresh air, both of which can help clear your mind, Plante says. Also, outdoor settings such as mountains, a biking trail, or a neighborhood park are pleasant places to spend time in. Beautiful settings, especially in spring and fall, can lift your mood and shake up your workout routine.
Originally published at www.everydayhealth.com