We all get stressed from time to time. Don’t worry—there are brighter days ahead! A great way to bust through to the other side is with fitness.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America explains: “When stress affects the brain, with its many nerve connections, the rest of the body feels the impact as well. So it stands to reason that if your body feels better, so does your mind.”
Combine that with the science that says exercise produces endorphins, chemicals in our brains that act as natural painkillers (aka the body’s “feel-good” chemicals), and you have one very good reason to work out when you’re stressed.
The question is, what will you do for your workout? If you’re stressed, you’re probably cranky and irritable, meaning phrases like, “Ugh, I just don’t feel like working out today” or “I REALLY don’t want to sit in traffic to get to the gym,” are running through your brain like ticker tape—and that’s only making you more stressed by the minute.
Lure yourself into a workout by choosing one of the five following ideas, all of which will help you sweat through your stress once and for all.
1. Use a punching bag
Channel your stress into a kick-butt workout by using a punching bag. If you ever want to throw something when you’re stressed, a boxing class may be the perfect stress-busting workout for you. Few things are more cathartic than thinking about your stressors while hitting a punching bag as hard as you can.
If the gym where you have a membership doesn’t offer boxing classes, look for a local boxing gym. Most of them offer beginner classes and may even offer a free 7-day trial, so you won’t even have to pay for the class.
Don’t stress… we wrote one for you. This workout basically causes all your stressful thoughts to go out the window. HIIT requires focus. And trust us, you won’t be able to think about anything else but getting through the workout, and in this case, it’s a good thing.
HIIT also scorches calories and improves your anaerobic energy system, making it a valuable workout to add to your regular routine, too.
The idea is simple. Perform a series of exercises for a designated interval of time, rest for the same amount of time or less, and repeat. The goal is to keep your heart rate up the entire time. Try the following routine:
Work: 30 seconds, rest 30 seconds
Repeat: 5 times each
- Squat jumps
- Plank jacks
- Alternating lunges
- Bicycle crunches
- Forearm plank hold
- Tricep dips
- Walkouts (inchworms)
Tune everything out and find some Zen in a 60-minute yoga class. And when you’re teacher says “let go of what no longer serves you,” do it.
For many people, getting grounded and putting everything else on the periphery is the best way to alleviate stress. Whether you’re in the process of holiday prep or mending a broken heart, yoga can help.
The best part about this stress-reducing workout is that you’ll feel better now while teaching your body how to reduce stress in the future as well.
According to a study published in the "International Journal of Yoga," “Yogic practices inhibit the areas responsible for fear, aggressiveness and rage, and stimulate the rewarding pleasure centers in the median forebrain and other areas leading to a state of bliss and pleasure. This inhibition results in lower anxiety, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and cardiac output in students practicing yoga and meditation.”
4. Go on a mind-clearing run
If a gym sesh or a group class doesn’t help you shake your stress, take an alternative route: lace up your shoes for a long run. Running is one of the best ways to clear your mind and work through a problem, literally and figuratively.
Not only do you feel like a new person after working something over in your mind for miles, but your brain literally changes (and you’ll sweat—A LOT). Studies have found that there’s production of new cells in your brain during long, 30 minutes or longer, aerobic exercise.
If you want more distraction, plug in your headphones and turn on your favorite playlist. Music makes us happier, and pairing that with endorphin-boosting exercises is a surefire way to sweat through your stress.
5. Take a walk
A long walk with a friend or significant other can be a great way to forget about your stress. Instead of doing a workout or taking a yoga class, head outside for some fresh air.
You’ll wind up focusing on the conversation and how the other person is doing. In the end you’ll feel relaxed, caught up on the latest details of your walking partner’s life, and happy that you made time to be active.
Instead of forcing yourself to do the same old thing, however, which will likely stress you out more, try one of these workouts. Each one helps you sweat away the stress in a different way, so choose the one that sounds most effective, step into your favorite workout clothes and let that stress go.