Many of us suffer from stress these days and with the current economic climate forcing employers to expect more from their employees and having to make every penny count; it’s no wonder. If you are having a hard time of things there are answers which don’t result in gorging on chocolate, leaving your job or taking it out on partners and family members.
Recent research has suggested that one of the best forms of stress management comes from exercise and people find that hitting the gym is their perfect solution to keeping calm when they have had a stressful day.
The science behind this is quite easy to understand. It has been well known for a number of years that exercise makes you feel better, this comes about from the body pumping up endorphins which are responsible for increasing your mood. Exercise is also a valid meditation technique and as you carry it out, you soon forget about the thing that caused your stress; taking time away from the stressful situation and concentrating on the exercises can have you chilled out in no time. The energy burning element of exercise also means that your body will need time to recover therefore it may help you sleep better and stop you from losing sleep over the thing that is stressing you out.
In addition to this studies have shown that individuals who anger easily burn more energy when exercising than those who are already relatively calm, and those who are easily angered can work out for longer. This indicates that for many people the best time to kick up their exercise routine is when they have had a particularly bad day or have encountered a stressful situation. Bottling up feelings can lead to all kinds of mental health issues and for those who anger easily or who can show their stress and channel it through exercise are less likely to be affected long term with stress and other health problems.
If you are feeling the pressure of modern life or have a very demanding job exercise may be the best option for you. It can be hard with a particularly pressured lifestyle to take the time out to exercise but not every task takes chunks out of your day and it will be worth it in the long run. You don’t even have to adhere to a strict programme to feel the benefits. Some of the best ways to get moving, have fun and de-stress are:
Working out at your local gym
Your local gym is likely to have good opening hours, with many opening as early as 6am and staying open until 10pm. Therefore it should be relatively easy to take an hour out for a gym session before or after work. Even if you can only manage a 30 minute cross-training and treadmill session you will still release endorphins and help keep those stress levels down.
Taking a class
Many leisure centres and gyms have classes ranging from 30 minutes to an hour where you can focus on the things that you enjoy the most. If circuit training is your bag then check that out, or how about a dance? Dancing is one of the best ways to get moving and have fun and it won’t even feel like exercising. Studies have shown that vigorous exercise carried out three times a week with other people can also dramatically reduce the effects of stress, so get your friends involved in the class and feel better in no time at all.
Going for a dip
Jump in the pool and you will be feeling better straight away. There is something very therapeutic about water and many health professionals see the benefit of it as a treatment. Visiting the pool just a few times a week can have you feeling healthy and relaxed, and best of all because it is a low impact form of exercise it is accessible to many.
Yoga and Pilates have severely jumped in popularity over the past few years. This is because they are both relaxation techniques as much as exercise programmes. Combatting stress is at the head of the results when it comes to yoga and there are even poses specifically aimed at reducing your stress.
Exercise isn’t just a useful way of reducing stress either; it can be good for your mental health in other ways too. For example recently a report into a series of exercise and mental health studies found that there is a link between exercise levels and depression. The Cochrane Report was originally published in 2009 but has been updated to look at more recent studies, the results claim that exercise can be just as effective as psychotherapy and anti-depressant medication when it comes to reducing the symptoms of the illness. However, as with most illnesses, if you are suffering severe stress or depression it is best to visit your doctor before self-prescribing your own treatment, even if they then recommend exercise to you as part of your treatment plan.
by Jessica Ward
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