Stress is a fact of life, but it can be a double-edged sword. In small doses, it can boost alertness and performance. But when you’re always stressed, that can have a significant downside.
The stress response system releases hormones in response to stressors. In small bursts, it can help you run faster or feel less pain. But when those hormonal fluctuations become chronic, that can lead to health problems. Chronic stress has been linked with chronic health conditions, including depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and possibly even cancer.
But regular physical exercise can help get your stress response system back into a more normal balance. “Routine exercise helps to release natural endorphins that may reduce stress,” says Dr. Tara Menon, a gastroenterologist at the Wexner.
Here Are The Best Exercises to Ease Stress and Anxiety
Perhaps the simplest way to get some stress-busting exercise is to go for a brisk walk. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that some studies suggest that a 10-minute walk can be enough to restore calm and maybe just as helpful as a 45-minute or longer walk when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety.
Jogging or running
If your joints are up to it, try picking up the pace for even more anxiety release by jogging or running. Just make sure you have a safe route and shoes that adequately support and cushion your feet.
A full-body workout, swimming is great for the cardiovascular system. It offers some resistance training elements because water is denser than air and will resist your movements more than when you move on land. Being submerged in water can also be very soothing for some people and make for an even better stress reduction.
Cycling is easy on the joints and can provide a heart-pumping workout. Just don’t forget your helmet and watch out for cars and potholes. Or hop on a stationary cycle for the safest option.
Is there anything more life-affirming or joyful than simply busting a move to some great music? Dancing can be a fantastic way to ease stress while getting a solid workout? It can also be an intensely social activity, which can also help foster a sense of connectivity and support, further helping you feel less anxious.
When you get really stressed or mad, do you ever want to hit something? Well, if you have a boxing bag or a sparring partner, boxing can be an excellent way to burn off stress, anger and other intense emotions while providing a fabulous heart-pumping workout.
High-intensity interval training gets your heart pumping fast by mixing aerobic, anaerobic and strength elements into a compact workout that may pay big dividends in health and wellness.
Other Stress-Releasing Physical Activities
Other forms of exercise that may be less intense but just as helpful for restoring calm and easing stress include:
Yoga or tai chi
Yoga is often thought of as the gold standard in exercising for stress or anxiety relief. Another gentle practice called tai chi matches slow, deliberate movement with breathing exercises. Whether you do an aerobic hot house yoga workout that gets you sweating or a super gentle breathing and stretching practice that barely seems like exercise, yoga and tai chi can connect the mental and physical parts of yourself for great benefit to body and mind.
One of the best anxiety-soothing aspects of yoga is how it connects the breath to movement. Breathing exercises are a powerful means of helping you calm down and re-center when you’re dealing with stress or anxiety.
Working in the garden can get you moving and more physically active than you might realize. Stretching, bending, digging and carrying plants, soil, or a full watering can around the garden work a range of muscles and elevate your heart rate slightly while helping you beautify your space and calm your mind.
Strolling in the woods or along a beach
Sometimes called forest bathing, getting out in nature to enjoy a gentle walk in the woods or along a waterfront can do wonders for alleviating anxiety and stress.
Even just a gentle stretching program can give you the option to move within mobility limitations and focus on your physical health to alleviate stress and anxiety.