Numerous studies have confirmed the fact that the right amount of exercise relieves stress and boosts the immune system. It releases feel-good hormones — such as endorphins and adrenaline — and reduces levels of stress hormones.
Yet our natural reaction to stress is usually to take things out of our day that seem superfluous and time-consuming. Often that includes the time we spend on our own health. We sacrifice that time — and ourselves — to other more “important” causes at hand, even when the cause of our stress is something we don’t have control over anyway.
I’d like to point out three other important benefits of exercise that are less often highlighted — but equally great reasons to find time every day to just move.
- Taking time for yourself can have a meditative effect. Focusing on just your physical exertion and breathing gives you space and time to disconnect from your worries for that moment — a golden moment you can give yourself.
- A planned workout gives you a sense of your ability to influence your environment — a good thing when you’re feeling out of control. Exercise allows you to take break from that helpless feeling.
- It’s a cathartic outlet! (This is my favorite.) Working out is a great way to let off steam.
A smart technique to use in your stress relief workouts is “nose breathing.” Yoga teaches us that breathing through the nose is proven to calm the nervous system. Combine that with a cardio workout and you’ll experience noticeable stress relief benefits, just by moving and breathing!
Try this 30-minute stress relief workout I recommend to my clients. This routine with a focus on nose breathing will also give you the benefit of high and low heart rate intervals, plus stability and mobility exercises:
In five-minute intervals, alternate the following moves:
- Plié squats (point your toes out at a 45-degree angle, toward the two corners of the room) with arms reaching overhead … when you come up, straighten legs to standing, gazing upward and bringing arms down alongside the body
- Heart-rate-boosting moves such as dancing, jumping, skipping, jumping rope, stepping up and down on a sturdy step or curb, or doing jumping jacks
- Downward Dog and Upward Dog, or preferably the full Sun Salutation sequence
- More cardio moves as in #2
- Abs sequence: Standing twists on a ball if available, or lying on a yoga mat
- Stretches done lying on a mat or on the floor. Or, if you have a foam roller available, spend the last five minutes rolling your body over the roller to relax the legs and back muscles.
Good luck and LiveLifeLoud!
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