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Stop reading this for a second and take a deep breath. Now stand up and stretch and take another deep breath.
Feel better? Chances are you had a brief moment of stress reduction or clarity—something that comes at more of a premium than ever with our constant on-the-go, stressed out lifestyles that barely leave enough time or space for much of anything.
The truth is that everyone gets stressed out. All of us. It’s a normal part of life. But being stressed out doesn’t mean that we simply have to take it. Stress, as well as anxiety, is something we can reduce naturally.
Through exercise. But before you go out and drop a small fortune on a rowing machine or a fancy gym membership, let’s talk about a few exercises specifically geared towards reducing your stress and anxiety levels. While it’s true that all physical activity reduces cortisol levels (your body’s stress hormone) and will reduce stress, let’s focus on a few that can actually connect to your mind and body. Bringing the two together will do more than provide a great workout for your body—it will be relaxing and therapeutic.
It might seem trendy now, but yoga is thousands of years old, and its health benefits haven’t changed at all. It brings together the mind and body while simultaneously building muscle strength and flexibility. It also helps you relax.
The best part about yoga: anyone—regardless of age or fitness level—can practice it. Contrary to what many people believe, you don’t have to be flexible to start. And because the exercise comes in a variety of different forms, you won’t get bored. If you’re looking for a great way to ease stress and anxiety while getting in shape at the same time, it will be hard to find a solution better than yoga.
Less well known than yoga, but incredibly good for you, Tai Chi is an ancient non-competitive martial art. What makes Tai Chi so popular among its practitioners is its ability to exercise both the mind and body together. Tai Chi improves muscular strength, flexibility, immunity, and can help relieve pain – all while achieving a sense of peace and serenity.
Pilates is a series of controlled movements and mat exercises named after Joseph Pilates. It’s a workout designed to build strength, flexibility, and endurance. Not only does its toning effects help you look better, it has been shown to help you feel better, too. This is mainly due to the breathing techniques incorporated throughout the workout.
If you’ve gardened for an hour, you know that it’s more than a hobby. It’s a full-body workout. And because you’re out in nature, working with your hands, gardening has been shown to improve peoples’ moods while decreasing their stress levels.
Let’s face it. We spend far too much time indoors. The majority of people sit at desks under florescent lighting and then return home when it’s dark. We were built to be outside in nature, under the sunshine. Hiking is a great way to relieve stress and anxiety by putting your body outside—right where it belongs. It’s also physically challenging.
Here’s a stress-relieving exercise that almost anyone can get behind. Dancing is fun. It’s also a form of self-expression and creativity. And there also aren’t any rules. What’s less known about dancing is its health benefits. Dancing builds muscle, helps you lose weight, and improves your heart rate and bone density. If you want to take your heart rate up a notch or two, try a dancing workout like Zumba.
Hitting (or kicking) the bags does more than crank up your metabolism. It teaches breathing techniques that can help you feel more relaxed throughout the day Also, learning how to deliver a beat down should you ever need to inspires a lot of confidence.
As life gets busy, it’s harder than ever to achieve peace of mind. In fact, it seems like our mental and emotional health is the very last thing we end up taking care of. Simply ignoring it doesn’t work. While life will never be stress free, we can reduce daily anxiety and achieve the mental clarity and overall wellbeing that’s so critical for living a well-rounded life if we choose to move more, breathe more, and maybe have a little fun in the process. So get out there and find an activity that connects your body and mind, and maybe makes you smile a little more often. You’ll be happier. You’ll also be healthier.
We all know stress is not kind to us. But what actually happens inside the body when we feel stressed? Check out Stress & Your Health to find out.