Exercise for Stress
Unfortunately managing stress is a common part of life for so many of us, but actually knowing how to reduce it is difficult and can be in the ‘too hard’ basket. Or, we know what we need to do but we just don’t have the time to do it, hence stress levels are where they are!
Moving your body in any form is a great stress reliever. It boosts your feel-good endorphins and distracts you from daily worries.
How does exercise relieve stress?
When you move your body you release endorphins, these are your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. The release of these endorphins will often give you a ‘high’. When you’re in this state, and in the midst of exercising, you will likely be distracted from your worries and tensions, leaving you with a clearer head. By doing this regularly it can help you approach your days with a calmer and clearer mindset.
Regular exercise is also a great mood and confidence booster, as well as being a way to lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Not only that but it can improve sleep which is often affected by depression, stress and anxiety.
Just get started
But first, talk to your GP. If it’s been a while since you exercised, or you have a few health concerns, then consulting a medical professional is a good idea.
However, it’s important to gradually build up. Don’t run before you can walk otherwise you could end up injured and overdoing it. It’s recommended that adults do 150 mins of moderate aerobic activity each week (brisk walking or swimming), or 75 mins of vigorous aerobic activity (running). Why not mix it up and do a combination of the two? And remember to add some strength training in a couple of times a week too.
You know how much you need to do, but what should you do? Anything you enjoy. There’s no point putting yourself through exercise you hate, and quite honestly, it’s unlikely you’ll stick at it if you don’t enjoy it. So choose things you enjoy – walking, gardening, jogging, cycling, swimming.
Finally, schedule it in. By putting your exercise sessions into your diary or calendar, you’re immediately prioritising and therefore will have less excuses to not do it. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t at the same time each day, as long as you get it done.
Stick to it
You’ll probably be really enthusiastic at the start but come week two or three, your enthusiasm might start to wane. Setting goals that are measurable and achievable is important so you can remind yourself why you’re doing this and why it’s a priority. Working out with a friend makes moving so much more fun! Set up a time to head out together for a walk, run, exercise class, anything that moves your body and you can enjoy doing together. You’ll be less likely to skip a session if someone else is joining you too!
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut so why not try something different? If that’s daunting, then do it with a friend! Choose a class to try together and see what you think. And while you’re at it, don’t feel you need to do everything at once. If you only have small pockets of time, that’s okay, because any movement that elevates your heart rate is better than nothing. If a 30 minute walk is too hard to achieve then head out for three 10 minute walks throughout the day, it will be just as beneficial.
The most important thing to remember is that exercise and moving your body should be FUN! If it’s feeling like a chore or just another task on your to-do list, then find a different way to get moving. No matter what though, if you prioritise exercise, whether it be in short bursts or longer stints, you will be guaranteed to feel better. Reducing those stress levels is important for so many reasons, so help yourself out by putting on your shoes and heading out the door.