Living in a COVID-19 world has created plenty of stressors that impact ourselves and our communities. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in five adults in the UK feel a sense of hopelessness due to the pandemic. On top of the extra stresses of the pandemic the winter months are linked with a rise in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which affects mood and energy. January also boasts the so-called ‘blue Monday’ termed the gloomiest day of the year due to post-Christmas blues and the cold weather. Higher levels of stress and anxiety can leave you feeling stuck in a rut, but you can get on a healthier path by adopting positive, repeatable, and personalized exercise to de-stress.

What do we know about the benefits — does exercise help anxiety? According to health experts, our physical wellbeing has a strong influence on our mental wellbeing. Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemical, into your body, and exercise boosts levels of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin that make you feel more alert. But how do you make exercise and anxiety management work for you? Read our tips on how you can create a personalized routine to reduce stress and anxiety in your life.

Use exercise as a break in your day

If you have been working from home more often, you have probably noticed your own high and low points throughout the day. When you spend a good amount of time hunched over a laptop on the couch, your day can feel like an ebb and flow of lethargy and restlessness. Get out of a pattern of stagnation by scheduling in 10-minute breaks throughout your day to get up and move. Try some simple exercise break ideas like:

  • A quick walk outside
  • HIIT moves, like reps of lunges, burpees, or squats
  • A short yoga vinyasa flow
  • Do some chores around the house  
  • Have some fun, dance it out!

Exercise and stress management works best when you keep yourself accountable. It doesn’t have to be just you: get your housemates or get the whole family moving if that helps you stay motivated.

Pick practices that fit your style

Different types of exercise have different pay-offs and finding the best exercise for anxiety is often a personal choice. Stress and anxiety management for some people might be all about the adrenalin rush. Higher impact exercise routines as straightforward as running or as structured as a high intensity interval training (HIIT) can satisfy that need, and work as an effective distraction against stressors.

Holistic exercise routines, like yoga, incorporate meditation into physical activity that benefit body and mind. Meditation is a form of mindful exercise that uses breathing exercises and sensational awareness to help you slow down and self-reflect. Health experts actually recommend breathing exercises for stress, and it’s a practice you can take off the mat and use in the moments you need it. Breathing exercises for stress are pretty simple, here’s an example you can try from the NHS:

  1. Get comfortable standing, sitting, or lying down
  2. Breath in deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth
  3. Keep the pace gentle and regular, if it helps count from 1 to 5 on each inhale and exhale
  4. Maintain your breath like this for 3 to 5 minutes

Breathing exercises for anxiety and holistic exercise can be a self-guided practice, but if you would like help look into one of David Lloyd’s yoga, tai chi, SPIRIT and guided meditation classes for direction.

Use self-care to take care of body and mind

Pay attention to your limits, and do not overlook the benefits of self-care after physical activity. Self-care can look like a soothing bath to ease muscle tension, taking time to stretch after exercise, or embracing some quiet relaxation just for yourself. When you can, visit David Lloyd Clubs, we have a variety of spa spaces, saunas, steam rooms, and whirlpools for you to relax, repair, and energize. Look forward to treating yourself at our state-of-the-art Spa Retreats, or recharge in our serene outdoor Spa Gardens. When you do find that practice of exercise and self-care that you enjoy, remember to set a consistent routine with achievable goals so you don’t lose motivation.

Finding a workout routine can feel overwhelming at first but there are little things you can do to make it seem less daunting:

  • Pick a time to exercise the day before to give you time to prepare
  • Get your workout kit ready the day before you plan to exercise
  • Start small – don’t push yourself too hard at the start with manageable workouts
  • There might be days when you may not feel up to exercising, don’t beat yourself up about this and give yourself the break your body needs and restart your routine the next day

Find your workout community

Mental health is impacted by our access to the communities and people we love. Lloyd Clubs has taken steps to keep our exercise community in-touch. David Lloyd @home gives you access to classes like yoga, cycling, weight training, and our popular HIIT Blaze via mobile app. Having a community – exercise-based or otherwise – that you check-in with each week is a great way to engage with people and places outside of your home.  Our #runclub is a great way to stay motivated to achieve your fitness goals

Linking physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing

Intentional exercise and stress management is a helpful practice, and has transferable use for your general wellbeing. Try to stay present in the moment, maintain a pattern of activities you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to try something new. While anxiety and stress management is never a perfect task, be aware of resources you can use to work towards a healthier lifestyle.

Want to find out more about how David Lloyd Clubs can help get you into your best exercise routine? Check out our website and give yourself some DLC.