Top 5 Exercises For Controlling Stress. Just crashing on your sofa and giving up isn’t the answer. Work it out instead. Read how to control Stress.
Stress isn’t just a mental or emotional issue – it can physically hurt too. Chronic tension can be the reason behind both long-term diseases (depression, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure) and everyday health problems (headaches, back pain, insomnia, upset stomach, anxiety, anger). Stress isn’t gender-neutral either. Research shows that women experience it more critically than men and we’re more susceptible to the physiological effects of chronic stress. But crashing on your sofa and giving up isn’t the answer. Work it out instead. Just getting up and moving around is a powerful way to reduce stress. Exercise also gets us breathing deeper, which triggers the body’s relaxation response. But some exercises are more helpful than others when it comes to stress reduction.
Here are 5 stress-decreasing ways to exercise:
It’s easy to do and requires no classes or special equipment. Walking frequently can reduce the incidence of many of the stress-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and type 2 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 releases tension from the major muscle groups, deepens the breathing and quiets the nervous system. It also gets us out into nature, which is relaxing.
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. To lose weight, you’ll have to make those walks longer when you have time (say, 90 minutes on Sundays) and/or more intense (take a hilly route or ramp up speed). Your breath should be heavy but not labored.
Yoga postures are a form of strength training, making you more resilient and flexible, which in turn relieves physical tension. It also uses deep breathing, which triggers the body’s relaxation response. Studies have shown that yoga reduces blood pressure too. But perhaps yoga’s biggest benefit is the mental focus it promotes. Focus is key to stress management. Poses require concentration, which keeps your mind focused on what you’re doing instead of analyzing, planning and worrying.
Yoga classes that appeal to all ages, temperaments and fitness levels abound at gyms, studios and community colleges. Some classes, such as Hatha, are gentler and focus primarily on stress reduction, while others – ashtanga, vinyasa, power, Bikram – are more athletic. You can also practice yoga on your own at home.
Dancing has many physical, mental and even emotional benefits. It’s a great workout that improves grace and agility as it raises your heart rate. And researchers have found that people who ballroom dance twice a week have less risk of developing dementia, perhaps because learning new steps challenges your brain too. Dancing also fosters a sense of community and connection to other people, which lowers stress levels and boosts happiness. The scientific reason for why dance can act as a stress reliever stems from the idea that when the body feels good, the mind does too. Any type of physical activity releases the neurotransmitter, endorphins, which serve to alleviate stress. Neurotransmitters are chemicals within the brain that help communicate messages throughout the body. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkiller to reduce stress and improve the mind’s perception of the world. Thus, after a good workout, the endorphins cause the body to feel calm and optimistic. The endorphins also aid in improving the quality of sleep so that a few sleepless nights due to stress can be avoided after a session at the gym.
Ballroom, salsa, swing or square – take your pick. You can enroll in a class at a studio or a community center. Many music and dance clubs offer free lessons before evening events. Partners are rarely required – all you need are comfortable shoes and a sense of adventure.
Pilates brings relief from stress and a sense of calmness. It is a gentle, non-aerobic form of exercise that doesn’t rely on sweat, grunt, and pain. It produces not just a toned, flexible body but also a calm, relaxed mind. Pilates is a series of exercises that emphasize 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. Like yoga, the mental concentration required for Pilates zaps you into the moment, leaving little mental space for worrying. Pilates is, of course, excellent for strengthening the core muscles and relieving back pain by treating the underlying causes. Back pain is itself often a symptom of a stressed lifestyle, leading to poor posture. Pilates straightens the spine and improves posture. This will help you breathe better, digest your food more efficiently and even feel taller. Finally, Pilates is known for reducing neck pain, another side effect of stress. Pilates can be performed on a machine known as “The Reformer” – typically available only in Pilates studios – or on a mat on the floor (logically labeled “mat” or “floor” Pilates on gym schedules).
5. Tai Chi
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 results in an improved sense of well-being. Other benefits include better balance, more restful sleep and increased cardiovascular fitness.
Tai chi is comprised of more than 100 gentle, fluid movements that are linked with each other and your breath; unlike yoga, there are no pauses between the poses. Like yoga, there are several styles of tai chi that range in intensity. Many senior centers, wellness centers, and community colleges offer classes. You can also get started at home