We all know that physical exercise is an essential part of maintaining good health. However, exercise is also a great way to improve mental health. In fact, exercise is one of the best natural stress busters around. Getting in an intense workout to release tension and get those feel-good endorphins pumping through your body is a great way to manage stress and anxiety. But if you’re new to the idea of exercise and the idea of working out makes you cringe, I encourage you to give it a good try. Once you see how much a good workout can help to relieve stress, you’ll be far more motivated to make it an ongoing habit.
Is Exercise Good for Stress and Anxiety?
A good workout releases endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that function as natural painkillers. Endorphins are an immediate mood booster and not only that, they also help you sleep better! A good night’s sleep will also reduce stress and improve anxiety. Exercise will energize and refresh your body, leaving you feeling great during your workout and afterwards. Feeling better all around will help to reduce the physiological and psychological symptoms of anxiety.
Anxiety can quickly consume your thoughts and without intervention, can lead to panic attacks.. Engaging in physical activity that you find both challenging and enjoyable is a great way to get distracted from obsessive, harmful thinking. You’re literally burning the anxiety away. While your body is working, your mind gets a rest as you focus on something else besides what you’re worrying about.
How to Choose the Right Workout For You
Now, you’ll want to be sure to pick an exercise that you enjoy and isn’t a chore, or it might make your anxiety even worse. We all look at the perfectly toned bodies on social media and think that we need to do CrossFit to achieve that level of fitness. If CrossFit is your thing, then go for it. But if you hate the very idea of it, you don’t have to do it. Find what you love and makes you feel good! It might be as simple as a walk, gardening, a swim in the pool, or some gentle yoga. Do you you can and don’t compare yourself others. Good exercise is simply about getting your heart pumping and your mind off worries.
You don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment to get started. Give a boost to your everyday activities and you’ll feel much healthier. Anything that you do during the day can be an opportunity to strengthen your mind and body. Set a simple goal of more physical activity will help you to feel more accomplished and boost your confidence. These are both really beneficial at kicking anxiety to the curb, since most anxiety is rooted in inner conflict.
A walk outside is one of the best things you can do for your physical and mental health. It helps promotes more neural activity in the brain. It is believed that blue skies help to relax the brain. The fresh air that the brain receives from outside promotes circulation, which can increase your cognitive abilities.
If you’re just starting out, put on a pair of sneakers and just go for a walk. Walking is a simple workout that’s accessible to most people. It’s low impact and you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or special training to do it. Just get out there and do it. Start out with a simple stroll around the block after dinner. It can be as easy or as challenging as you want it to be. After a few weeks you’ll be up to longer walks, picking up the pace, or even tackling a small hill.
Health Benefits of Hiking
We could all stand to get outside more. Hiking is a fantastic cardio workout that can be adapted to any fitness level. It lowers your risk of heart disease, and can help to improve your blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Not only that, but as a weight bearing exercise it will boost bone density and increase strength in your core, glutes, quads, hamstrings and hips which are essential to optimum mobility as we age.
Yoga for Stress Relief
Yoga and meditation are enormously popular and with good reason. They help to heal and relax mind, body and spirit. A regular yoga practice will also help you to incorporate breathing exercises (pranayama) that you can use any time of the day. Breathing exercises are a fantastic way to reduce stress and anxiety and you can use them no matter where you are! When the body releases stress hormones, the parasympathetic nervous systems activatesm which results in rapid breathing. When you get your breathing under control, it will go a long way to alleviating stress and anxiety.
Yoga will also help you to feel more grounded and confident, which you can then take with you into every area of your life. Any yoga practice will help you to develop those important core muscles. Improving the core muscles will naturally give you better posture, which will help you to project confidence.
There’s lots of great free yoga on YouTube. These are a few of my favorites:
Sleepy Santosha (for chronic illness)
Yoga With Adriene (fun!)
Yin Yoga with Kassandra (yin is one of the most relaxing forms of yoga you can do…check it out!)
Weight lifting can increase the production of testosterone. This hormone is known to inhibit the production of cortisol and regulate hormonal levels. The body also releases a surge of endorphins during a vigorous exercise. Weight lifting tones and improves physique. This can also help to improve self confidence for many women. It’s particularly important for women as we age to keep our bones and connective tissue strong, so that we can continue with daily tasks of living.
You don’t have to go to the gym to incorporate weights into your life. I like to use light weights during walk aerobics and a resistance band. That helps me to stay relatively toned. Do I look like a CrossFitter? No…but that’s okay!
How to Stay Motivated to Exercise
As I mentioned earlier, the most important thing is to find something that you love and that is realistic to your lifestyle. Then, start to visualize the results that you want, like improved overall physical and mental health. Doing this will help to carry you through on the days that you struggle with the idea of getting yourself moving.
If you’re having a rough or busy day, remember that a little bit of movement is better than none. A simple stretches, a walk around the yard with your dogs or even parking a little further away from the store still count as healthy movement.