7 Best Stress-Relieving Exercises to Calm Your Mind

best stress-relieving exercises

One of the best benefits of exercise is that it reduces stress. Whether you are smashing out a boxing class or going for a run, your body releases endorphins that can take away stress and anxiety, leaving you feeling calmer and happier. Especially in this busy, on-the-go lifestyle that so many of us lead, it is so important to give yourself that mental break and get active. So, here are the best stress-relieving exercises to leave you stress-free.

The 7 Best Stress-Relieving Exercises

1. Yoga

When you think about reducing stress through exercise, most people tend to steer towards the intense, fast-paced activities. While there is definitely room for that (and we will get to them later), there is also a place for yoga. Yoga is the opposite, and it is this reason why it is a great stress-reliever. It calms your mind by helping you focus on your breathing and helps you find your serenity.

It is a mind-body practice that can really help your sense of wellbeing, along with all the other physical benefits as well such as improved flexibility, posture, and strength.

2. Boxing

If you’re stressed, why not box it away? Often, we can hold in our anger and anxieties, which is very unhealthy to do. Boxing gives us a safe place to reduce our stress while letting us get in our exercise. Plus, it teaches us new skills as well.

Punching that punching bag as hard as you can stimulate the production of endorphins, helping you feel better instantly. Many people like to picture the source of their stress as the punching bag, which amps up the intensity, making it one of the best stress-relieving exercises!

3. HIIT

HIIT has so many great mental health benefits, as well as physical ones. It consists of alternating between vigorous exercises with rest periods in between. Because it is shorter than the average workout class, it is very high in intensity. And once you get into your HIIT class, you’ll be too busy focusing on your exercises to even worry about whatever is stressing you out. And once the class is over, your endorphins will be running high and you will feel much better than when you started.

4. Group Training

Whatever group training exercise you enjoy, whether it is HIIT, aerobics, Zumba, it is one of the best stress-relieving exercises. This is because you will be surrounded by your friends who are also looking to get fit and healthy too. Being in a social environment and with people, you enjoy being with can really lift your mood and make you feel much better.

5. Desk Stretches

Sometimes, you’ll be really stressed out at work and you can’t leave. When this happens, try some of the best stress-relieving exercises at your desk:

Seated twist – You don’t even have to get up from your chair to do this one. Remain seated with your feet planted on the ground. Then twist the top half of your body to the left. Hold for 5 seconds, breathing in and out deeply before switching to the other side. This helps to relax the back muscles and elongates your spine, really helpful to clear your stress and reset your body after being seated all day.

Touch your toes – Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. Stretch both hands all the way up to the ceiling, really feeling the stretch in your back. Then fall forward to touch your toes (or however far you can reach) in a forward fold. Then inhale and stand back up, swinging your arms above you again and repeat. This will help to calm your mind and relieve your stress.

Pec stretch – You can remain seated or standing for this one. Bring your hands behind your head and clasp your fingers. Bring your elbows back as far as you can and squeeze. Hold it for a few breaths before releasing the tension and repeat. This is an easy one to do throughout the day, that loosens your pectoral muscles.

6. Tai Chi

Tai Chi is very gentle and meditative in practice, making it one of the best stress-relieving exercises you can do. It is based on the concept of qi (your energy flow) and works to balance both your physical and mental forces. Not only can it help tone your body and promote better balance but it reduces your stress and anxiety so you will be left with a calm and peaceful mind.

7. Running

There is a reason why people tend to put on their running shoes and go for a run when they are feeling restless or anxious. There is something therapeutic about running, getting into the rhythm with your steps and breathing. Whether you do it outdoors or on the treadmill, running is one of the best stress-relieving exercises you can do.

Workout with Jefit

Jefit is a workout log app that comes with a customizable workout planner and scheduler. It helps you keep track of your progress so that you know you are heading in the right direction towards your fitness goals. It also comes with an extensive exercise library so you can choose what exercises suit you. Join our members-only Facebook page as well, so you can stay connected to your fellow Jefit members!

best stress-relieving exercises

Five Proven Exercise Strategies to Improve Mood and Anxiety

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Packaging the health benefits of exercise into a bottle or pill would be comparable to finding the Holy Grail. Though that won’t happen any time soon, you can still take advantage of what exercise has to offer. According to a study published in the Lancet Psychiatry, people report an average of 3.5 days of poor mental health in a given month. The amazing thing is we already know that there are exercise strategies for improving mood and anxiety. More of us just need to take advantage of doing these types of exercise on a regular basis.

The good news regarding this topic is any form exercise – from walking to housework – will reduce that number by an average of 1.5 days a month. Playing any type of team sport, in addition to aerobic exercise, and strength training seem to have the biggest affect on mood; with reports of these activities reducing the number of mental health days by 20 percent.

Amount of Exercise Needed

Individuals who exercise for 20 to 60 minutes a day, three to five days a week, receive the most benefit, compared with those who exercise either less or more. In fact, people who exercised 23 times a month and for longer than 90 minutes per workout, actually had worse mental health compared to those who exercised less often or for shorter periods of time, as noted in the study.

The following list includes five different activities that are proven exercise strategies that will improve mood and decrease anxiety. The goal is to get more of people doing some type of daily activity. Only 23 percent of Americans, over 18 years old, exercise on a regular basis. Meaning, they perform both cardio and strength training during the week, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Walking is a man’s best medicine.”

Hippocrates

Manageable Exercise Strategies to Improve Mood: Walking & Hiking

These are grouped together for no particular reason other than hiking is a more challenging progression of walking. Both are great for reducing stress and improving mood. This is especially true if you happen to be walking or hiking in the forest. The Japanese actually have a name for their strolls in the forest, they call it “Shinrinyoku.” They regard their walks or hikes in the forest as being similar to natural aromatherapy.

Newer research seems to reinforce the idea that spending time out in nature can be good for your mental health. A 2015 study published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, as an example, discovered that when young adults went on a 50-minute walk out in nature, they felt less anxious and had improved memory function.

In a study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, research scientists found a single bout of exercise – walking for 30-minutes – could instantly improve the mood of someone suffering from a major depressive order. Some scientists believe the reason for this is more neurobiological than anything.

“Walking and hiking works on stress by increasing arousal and energy levels and secondarily by reducing tension. The energy boost is immediate, while the tension reduction reveals itself later and over time. The enhanced energy enables you to better cope with stress, so that you are less likely to become tense in the first place.”

Running is a Big Stress Buster

Aerobic exercise, such as running, can produce positive changes in mood at least on a short-term basis across both young and older adults. Running 30-minutes during a week for three weeks has been shown to boost sleep quality, mood and concentration during the day according to a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Additional research showed a positive affect on trained runners who ran on a treadmill compared to untrained subjects; moderate-intensity running versus high-intensity running was shown to be have the best impact on “mood states.”

The mental benefits of running can be especially powerful for people who suffer from high anxiety and even depression. In a 2006 review published in the Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, researchers found evidence that exercise, like running, can work in a way that is similar to how antidepressants work.

Yoga Benefits

You have probably heard before how important your breath is, especially nasal breathing. No other activity focuses more on breath than meditation and yoga. The simple act of sitting or lying supine for even a few minutes, focusing on your breath, can make an impact on both mood and stress levels. Asanas work on stretching, lengthening, balancing and releasing stress in the muscles. These various postures can help release built-up muscle tension and stiffness in the body.

According Harvard Medical School, “by reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal — for example, reducing heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration. There is evidence that yoga also increases heart rate variability, an indicator of the body’s ability to respond to stress.

Strength Training Goes a Long Way

We know regular bouts of strength training can benefit our muscles, connective tissue and bones. The affects of regular training can go well beyond that. For instance, JAMA Psychiatry, reported “people with mild to moderate depression who performed resistance training two or more days a week saw “significant” reductions in their symptoms, compared with people who did not.” The research looked at 33 randomized clinical trials involving more than 1,800 subjects, and the findings “suggested that resistance exercises may be even more beneficial for those with more severe depressive symptoms.”

Research published in American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine (2010) reviewed seven resistance training studies to determine if training could be used as an intervention for people with anxiety. Their review on this topic demonstrated that resistance training is in fact a meaningful intervention for people suffering from anxiety. Two of the seven studies compared the effects of high-intensity resistance training (80% of 1-RM) to moderate-intensity (50%-60% of 1-RM). The results indicated that anxiety was reduced more with moderate-intensity resistance training. Stay Strong with Jefit.

References

Yanker, G., Burton, K., Walking Medicine. McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1990.

O’Connor, P.J., Herring, M.P. and Carvalho, A. Mental health benefits of strength training in adults. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4(5), 377-396., 2010.

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Can I Run and Strength Train at the Same Time?

Can I Run and Strength Train at the Same Time_

As a runner, you don’t just have to stick to running. And as someone who lifts weights, you don’t have to avoid any form of cardio like running like the plague. In fact, cross training is actually really beneficial to both sides of the spectrum. So if you are wondering whether you can run and strength train at the same time, here are the reasons why you definitely should.

Why runners should strength train

Strengthen your leg muscles

Runners can really benefit from weight training, especially with your legs. By including it in your workout, you can strengthen your leg muscles. Doing so will give you more endurance to last longer in your runs. It can also make your steps more powerful so you can propel yourself forward with more force, without having to exert more energy.

Prevent injury

Running can cause injuries. The most common injury is the Runner’s Knee. It can really be debilitating to your performance and cause you to have to stop training while you recover. If you run and strength train simultaneously though, you will be able to lessen the risk of injuries such as the Runner’s Knee.

Focus on building the hips and glutes so that your leg muscles are really developed and can help support and stabilize your lower body.

Build core strength

By building your core strength, you will be able to maintain a better posture even while running. Good posture is especially important for long-distance runners and really great for your body overall. This is also something that you should apply to your everyday life as well.

How to run and strength train for runners?

If you are a runner looking to strength train, make sure you start slowly to get used to it. Focus on compound exercises (multi-joint movements) such as the deadlift and squat. Bodyweight exercises also are very beneficial. Because they are not as taxing on the body as weights, they are a great way to build strength while you are recovering from running. Not to mention, they are convenient and can be done anywhere, anytime.

Why lifters should run

Don’t want to lose your gains? This is why most lifters tend to avoid cardio work, including running. For the fear of losing the muscle that they painstakingly built in the gym. However, while it is important to work on your strength, it is important to include aerobic exercise in your training. Weight training does not account for your cardiovascular health, which is where running comes in.

Improve your cardiovascular health

Running really works your cardiovascular health, which is great for a number of reasons. One, it will improve your heart health. This means that you will lower your risk of developing heart disease, cardiovascular disease. You’ll also lessen the risk of a stroke. By keeping your heart working and elevated, you keep it strong and healthy. And two, you will increase your oxygen capacity. By constantly working your heart through running, you will be able to take in my oxygen, so when you lift, more oxygen will be delivered to your muscles. This means you will be able to lift heavier and for longer.

Strengthen legs

Running is a great way to build leg muscles. Depending on the type of running program you do, you can train your slow-twitch muscle fibers as well as your fast-twitch muscle fibers. Combine running with your strength training, especially leg day, you’ll really develop those leg muscles, particularly your glutes, quads, calves, and hamstrings.

Burns more calories

Want to burn more calories? Running is a great way to do this. It is a great form of cardio that can really get your metabolism fired up so will keep burning fat long after you finished training.

How to run and strength train for lifters?

If you are a lifter looking to run, try incorporating a low to moderate running day two to three times a week for 20-30 minutes. This helps to give you the benefits of running but also won’t hinder your strength training performance.

There are multiple benefits of cross training. To run and strength train simultaneously means giving your body a well-rounded workout that hits both strength and cardio components. Plus, each of these exercises actually complements each other and can really enhance your performance as a runner or a lifter.

Workout with Jefit

Want to run and strength train at the same time? Use Jefit as your very own customizable workout planner and scheduler. With the ability to log your workouts and track your progress, you can make sure that you are headed towards your fitness goals. We even have our very own members-only Facebook page where you can talk and connect with your fellow Jefit members. Join now here!

Can I Run and Strength Train at the Same Time_