The value of exercise has been drilled into us for like, forever, and with good reason: movement does the body and the mind good. Moving our bodies is not only great for our physical health, it’s also great for our mental health and one of the best ways to relieve stress. Exercise lowers cortisol (aka the stress hormone), releases endorphins (aka the chemicals that make you feel good), reduces feelings of anxiety and depression, and even helps improve your sleep. Not to mention movement also makes you feel strong and confident in your body, which also promotes mental wellbeing. It’s a win all around.
Given that we’ve all lived through a global pandemic over the past year, and many of us have been living the WFH life, it’s safe to say we can all use more movement in our lives. The key is focusing on movement that is gentle, easy, and most importantly, fun because when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, an intense workout is so not the vibe. To inspire you to get moving this month (and every month, really), below, we’ve rounded up six exercises for stress relief.
How to reduce stress: 6 exercises for stress relief
1. Choose a hobby that involves moment
Exercises for stress relief don’t necessarily have to be “exercises” at all. To trick yourself into getting more movement into your routine, consider picking up a new hobby that will force you to get moving. Gardening, for example, typically involves digging and lugging around big bags of dirt and heavy pots. Plus, you’ll get your hands dirty and connect directly with the Earth, which is good for the soul. Other ideas for movement-friendly hobbies include roller skating, biking, or swimming.
Dancing is one of the most fun ways to relieve stress. Here’s why: Dancing is not just movement it’s an experience. When your favorite song is blasting, and you’re doing your thing on the dance floor (er, living room), you’re so engrossed in the moment and the movement that you don’t even notice that your heart is pumping and you’re getting a cardio workout in. Dancing is basically a workout disguised as a good time. The best part is you can do it anytime, like in between Zoom meetings. Or, you can take your dance skills up a notch by signing up for a virtual dance class from platforms like Steezy or Obé Fitness.
3. Play a sport
Another excellent exercise for stress relief: playing sports. There are many to choose from: tennis, baseball, basketball—take your pick. Because you’ll be focused on playing the game, sports are a great way to sneak in cardio into your day and relieve some stress. Plus, sports get bonus points for also being a social activity since you can play with others. Consider this your call to action to text your BFF and make a sports date, ASAP.
4. Practice yoga
Yoga is known for being a great exercise that relieves stress. Hatha yoga, in particular, is focused on stress reduction. It’s much slower and involves gentle, static poses and deep breathing, which helps the mind and body relax. But really, any type of yoga flow will help reduce stress levels. Yoga postures are a form of strength training that helps relieve physical tension, and they require you to be focused and present instead of mentally going through your to-do list. After savasana, you’ll be feeling like a brand new version of yourself, ready to tackle whatever the day ahead brings. Don’t have time for a full-on flow? Stretching can also help bust stress.
5. Go for walks or hikes
Incorporating walks and hikes into your routine is an easy way to relieve stress. They don’t have to be long either. Research has shown that even a brisk 10-minute walk can improve your mood. It’s a great way to clear your mind and reset your energy in between all the busyness of the day. And, one of the beauties of this movement style for stress relief is you can multitask, which means there are no excuses not to do it. Haven’t chatted with an old friend in a while? Pop on your earbuds and give them a ring so you can catch up while you walk. Want to learn about a new topic? Listen to an episode of a new podcast.
6. Make small lifestyle tweaks
Movement for stress relief can also mean just making small tweaks that encourage you to move your body more. For example, instead of riding the elevator, take the stairs to get your heart rate up. Instead of driving to get your morning coffee, walk or ride your bike to the coffee shop. Instead of vegging out on the couch watching Netflix, head to the park and hop on the swings for some impromptu inner child fun. Don’t underestimate the power of the small tweaks.
THE TAKEAWAY: Move your body in whatever way feels fun
It doesn’t matter what type of exercise for stress relief you choose. The important thing is that you do it regularly. Don’t be afraid to switch it up. Move your body in whatever way you feel called to move. Do what feels fun. Listen to your body. We challenge you to practice one of these ways to relieve stress every day, even if it’s just a few minutes. Your body and mind will thank you.