You’re probably familiar with conventional self-care methods like venting to a friend or simply taking a nap, but what about giving exercise a chance? Working out after a long day might be the last thing you want to do, but exercise actually can positively impact your mental health.
If you’re simply looking for some fun ways to move your body, read on for the best workouts for reducing stress.
1. A brisk walk
While you may have been expecting something a bit more intense, a 10-minute walk can decrease your blood pressure and stabilize your mood for the next several hours, both of which will reduce your stress. It’s easy to fit into your schedule and can make your whole day better.
If you want something to push yourself a bit more, running ia a great stress-busting technique. Taking your energy and putting it toward one clear goal or path will take most of your focus away from class, or work. Having something more concrete to show for how much you’ve gotten done, such as the number of miles you’ve run, is definitely satisfying and you’ll be ready to take on your next task with gusto, whatever it may be.
According to Everyday Health, dancing is a great way to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Aerobic exercise that increases your heart rate is the best when it comes to anti-stress workouts, so something like a Zumba class is perfect for this.
The other upside of dancing, Everyday Health notes, is the social aspect (although, okay, dancing around your room by yourself is also a hell of a good time). Socializing, especially in a fun, high-energy environment, can also serve to elevate your mood, so grab some friends and your favorite tunes and dance it up. By the end, you might have made a fool of yourself, but you’ll be smiling and sweating, leaving you feeling less stressed and more energized to return to the grind.
When it comes to connections between your mind and your body, there’s perhaps no better exercise than yoga. Mayo Clinic recommends yoga as a stress-relieving workout because it emphasizes inner peacefulness and physical control through different poses and breathing exercises.
Yoga incorporates meditation, which can help you relax and reduce the amount of stress you’re dealing with. It also has physical benefits, like helping with your balance, strength and flexibility. Yoga is also great for beginners, or anyone of varying fitness levels, so it’s a nice way to ease into making exercise a regular part of your day.
On the other end of the spectrum, kickboxing might not relax you in the same way that yoga will, but doing some cardio might just be what you need to knock-out your stress. American Fitness Professionals and Associates (AFPA) explains that enzymes produced by stress reduce your supply of endorphins, which can bog you down, so doing some cardio-kickboxing can release those endorphins and have you feeling top-notch again.
LIVESTRONG notes that kickboxing comes with a wealth of other benefits, as well. Getting better at self-defense is always a good idea, and you’ll also be working out your entire body because it’s such an involved workout.
A lot of the times, stress is about lack of control. Sometimes the best course of action is to put some control back in your hands, even if it’s small.
It’s for this reason that Makena Gera, a sophomore at Marist College, favors one workout in particular. “I really love weightlifting,” she says. “When you’re stressed, a lot of the time you feel out of control like there are too many things going on and you can’t tackle them all. But with lifting, I feel so strong and in control. It’s a great way to just let out any anger or stress you’re feeling and use it to accomplish a goal—like finishing that final rep.”
Ultimately, exercise doesn’t just have to be about burning calories and getting fit; your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and you shouldn’t shrug off your stress. These workouts will hopefully help you flex your muscles and relax your mind, so you can feel good on all counts. Even the least exercise-savvy person can find a workout that works for her, so don’t wait—grab your yoga mat, dancing shoes, a friend or whatever else you may need and get to it!