Hippocrates said, “If you’re in a bad mood, go for a walk. If you’re still in a bad mood, go for another walk.” Exercise is proven to be a very effective way to reduce stress, clear your head and boost your mood. From relationship drama to a demanding work schedule to money worries, stress is part of life — but finding time for exercise can significantly impact how effectively you cope with that stress.
Luckily, there are many types of exercise that can help relieve stress and keep you grounded. The best results will come when you choose workouts that you enjoy. Whether you like to stick to one or two types of exercise or mix it up and do a little bit of everything, here are nine types of exercise that can help reduce stress.
Slow stretches and mindfulness are foundations of any yoga practice, whether you’re doing a gentle Hatha-style flow or something a little quicker. The ultimate goal of yoga is relaxation and building a strong mind-body connection — and, crucially, you can start practising yoga at any age. As you slow down and focus on your breath, you’ll learn how to clear your mind and simply be in the moment. Eventually, you’ll learn how to carry that sense of calm over into your day-to-day life and feel better equipped to manage stress and cope with anxiety.
An added benefit: You’ll improve your posture, core strength and flexibility too.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates between periods of rigorous exercise to increase heart rate and short “rest” periods. It can be done with bodyweight only, making it accessible to anyone. It can also be modified to meet anyone’s goals and fitness level. Taking time out of a busy day to focus on yourself can help reduce stress overall and make you feel more focused and motivated in all areas of life.
An added benefit: HIIT classes are short, so you can easily fit them into a busy schedule.
Studies have shown that aerobic exercise such as running has the power to protect the brain from deterioration related to stress, and you don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits because 3-4 times per week is all it takes. In the short term, going for a run can give you a “runner’s high”, a welcome break from the pressures of day-to-day life. In the long-term, running builds endurance not only physically but mentally, so as you train and improve your personal bests, you’re also improving your ability to cope during high-stress times.
An added benefit: A boost in your overall cardiovascular health.
The benefits of getting outdoors and enjoying fresh air and sunshine cannot be overstated. Spending time in nature can help clear your mind and leave you feeling relaxed and grounded. Add the benefits of cardio — such as reducing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol while pumping up feel-good endorphins — and it’s no wonder hiking has become such an addictive hobby for so many.
An added benefit: The chance to explore and enjoy the great outdoors.
Mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing have been growing in popularity for a while now thanks to numerous mental and physical benefits. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, boxing requires you to be present at the moment and highly focused. Sparring can help release muscle tension that you might not have even realised you were holding onto and be a cathartic way to channel feelings of anger, anxiety, and stress into something positive.
An added benefit: Build confidence and a greater sense of self-awareness.
Listening to music on its own can be a stress reliever, but dancing along to your favourite tunes will add an extra anxiety-banishing boost along with reducing stiffness and improving flexibility. As an outlet for creativity and emotional expression, dancing can be the perfect chance to loosen up and just be yourself. Some people might not consider a solo dance party in their living room a workout, but it can be! You can also join a dance fitness class to really get your heart rate up.
An added benefit: Dance with friends to add a little social time to your workout.
Just like any other type of exercise, swimming can get your heart rate up and the endorphins flowing. Low-impact and easily adaptable to fit goals and fitness levels — such as these 30-minute swimming workouts for beginners — swimming is the kind of exercise that almost anyone can do safely. Emphasising long muscle movements and controlled breathing, swimming naturally leads to feelings of relaxation and calm that are essential for managing stress in the short term and long term.
An added benefit: Strong swimmers have the skills and confidence to keep themselves and others safe around water.
In addition to the usual endorphin rush, there are a few added stress-reducing perks that cycling can provide. Pedalling can have a meditative effect, clearing your mind and releasing stress with each rotation. Getting outside and enjoying some fresh air is a great mood booster, especially combined with the euphoric effects of exercise. For many people, cycling can also be a nostalgic reminder of the freedom of being a kid.
An added benefit: Can be a convenient, low-cost, sustainable way to get around.
Think gardening can’t be strenuous enough to work up a sweat? Think again! Digging, carrying plants, cutting the grass, weeding — all of it can build muscle and have you drenched in sweat, all while doing something you enjoy. Gardening as exercise can be the perfect combination of mindfulness and physical activity to lower cortisol and give you a break from stressing.
An added benefit: Flex your creative muscles and grow a garden you can be proud of.
Looking for workout options that match your fitness goals and inspire you to try something new? Find out more about group workout classes at David Lloyd Clubs.