Stress is an inevitable part of life, yet it can be challenging to keep it under control. Fortunately, exercise and relaxation techniques are two effective ways to reduce stress levels.
Relaxation techniques can help trigger the body’s natural relaxation response, which slows breathing and heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and relaxes muscles. Not only that but it decreases stress hormones, improves sleep quality, and reduces chronic pain.
Regular aerobic exercise, also referred to as cardiovascular exercise or cardio in gym jargon, can reduce stress on your body. While all forms of exercise provide cardiovascular benefits, aerobic exercise has an extra advantage when it comes to relieving stress: It helps build mental resilience.
Aerobic exercise involves moving your entire body in a rhythmic, continuous motion to improve heart health and burn calories. It also increases stamina by making it easier for the heart to pump blood to active parts of your body like muscles.
Aerobic exercises are an excellent way to manage stress, but should not be undertaken in excess. Instead, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week.
Yoga, a mind-body practice that integrates movement, breathing and meditation, has numerous benefits for both the body and mind. It is especially helpful in managing stress.
Exercising yoga regularly has been linked to reduced stress hormones, improved focus and concentration, improved mental health, relaxation, as well as better sleep quality.
Chronic stress can have physical and psychological repercussions, such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, hypertension and weakened immunity.
Breathing exercises, known as pranayama in Sanskrit, help to relax both body and mind. By increasing oxygen to the brain, they promote mental clarity and improved wellbeing overall.
Additionally, yoga helps regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and sympathetic nervous system, reduce physical tension, and enhance muscle tone.
Meditation can help you manage stress, which in turn, helps improve your overall health and well-being. It may even aid in treating conditions like fibromyalgia, IBS and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Research the various forms of meditation to find one that works for you. Starting slowly with 5 minutes daily can be beneficial, then slowly increase your practice until 30 minutes or more each week.
Common meditation techniques include progressive relaxation, autogenic training and guided imagery. These involve contracting and relaxing certain muscle groups or visualizing objects associated with relaxation or calmness.
Strength training can help you manage stress, improve your mood and reduce symptoms of mild depression or anxiety. It also boosts self-confidence while giving you control over your body.
What type of strength training you do will depend on your goals and current fitness level. Generally, three main types are muscular hypertrophy, muscular endurance and power training(1).
Muscular hypertrophy is an exercise regimen that involves lifting heavy weights to promote muscle growth. This type of exercise is ideal for beginners or those with limited experience in exercising.
Muscle mass can assist you in maintaining independence and decreasing the likelihood of chronic health conditions such as back pain, arthritis and obesity. Furthermore, it increases metabolic rate so you burn calories more efficiently.
Strength training may also be beneficial for those with a heightened sensitivity to anxiety. Studies have demonstrated that resistance training can significantly reduce this sensitivity, an important step in managing stress.