No activity can top regular exercise when it comes to helping deal with stress. Stress can often be the result of the “fight or fight” reaction. During this reaction our bodies enter a state of high arousal, but often without a proper release of this energy our bodies can stay in this state for hours at a time. Exercise is often found to be the best way to dissipate this excess energy, especially for those with a more sedentary job.

It’s a great idea to channel your energy into some sort of exercise such as going for a brisk walk, a run, a bike ride or though participating in an active sport. It isn’t necessary to join a gym or a health club, since exercise take many forms from taking your dog for a walk to dancing at home to your own music.

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Experts recommend exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. There are many reasons to do so, as exercise not only helps to improves health and reduces levels stress, but it also relaxes tense muscles and helps with sleep. Exercising causes the release of chemicals called endorphins into your bloodstream, which help to make you feel relaxed and happy. This regular release of endorphins can be an extremely useful tool for fighting depression and anxiety, as well as for helping to keep your weight in check, reduce the risk of heart conditions and stroke, managing high blood pressure, diabetes and even back pain. All in all, fit people are usually much better able to handle the long-term effects of stress without suffering ill health.

Types of Exercise
swimming, jogging, cycling, aerobics classes or videos, and dancing are all great forms of exercise. Choosing an activity you enjoy makes exercising much more fun, and will help you keep up with it in the long run.

It can also be a good idea to vary your activities to avoid becoming bored with your exercise routine. For example if you typically exercise inside, try an outdoor activity.

Exercising should be fun, as it’s difficult to keep up with an exercise program that isn’t very enjoyable. Exercising with a partner or a friend can encourage you to keep it up longer, and try activities that will make you forget you’re exercising, such as roller-skating or flying a kite.

Excuses, Excuses!
If you find yourself making excuses, try writing them down and assessing each one. Your excuses might be:

Not having the time or money.
Not being the sporty type, or inexperienced at exercise.
Not enjoying exercise.
Being too old, tired, overweight, or self-conscious.
Not having any facilities close by.

However, exercise shouldn’t be boring and doesn’t have to take place at a gym or on a treadmill. Everyone should be able to exercise for free without leaving the house or having a particular skill. Keep in mind how much better you feel after exercising, and always remember to warm up before a workout and to cool down afterwards to avoid injury.

Walking
walk5Even the least fit and most busy among us are usually are able to incorporate a bit of walking into our schedules. A walking routine can be a great form of aerobic exercise. It’s free, strengthens the heart and lungs, your leg, core and back muscles. Regularly going for walks can also help to prevent osteoporosis, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, help with diabetes, and increases flexibility.download

Walking for around 30 minutes on most days should be an easily achievable target for most. If possible try walking all or part of the way to work, or go for a 15 minute walk at lunchtime and go for another in the evening. As your fitness improves, you could even go for a slow jog or faster walking pace.

Opting to take the stairs instead of the elevator is a great choice that becomes automatic after a short time.

Yoga
Enlightenment in natureYoga helps to reduce stress and improve strength, flexibility, coordination, circulation and posture. For those suffering from asthma it may even reduce the frequency of asthma attacks.

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice which dates back to more than 5000 years ago. Yoga, meaning union, was originally designed to lead the human spirit into union with nature. However most people today use yoga as a practice to connect the body and mind in a way that induces a sense of peacefulness and relaxation. It utilizes stretching postures, breathing, and meditation techniques to help calm the mind and tone the body.

Women practicing yoga in a class

There are many different types of yoga, but most used in the West are forms of Hatha Yoga, which is a combination of asanas (physical exercises and postures), pranayamas (breathing techniques) and meditation.

Although it is possible to learn about yoga from books and videos, the best way to learn is from attending a yoga class with an experienced teacher.

Tai Chi
also known as tai chi ch’uan, Tai Chi is a slow form of martial art which helps to reduce stress while improving strength and flexibility.

Based on the Chinese Taoist philosophy, Tai Chi was developed for health, self-defense, and spiritual development. It combines a series of gentle physical movements and breathing techniques, allowing one to experience a meditative state. The main idea is that Tai Chi facilitates the flow of chi (“life energy”) through the body by dissolving blockages within the body and between the body and the environment. Through concentration, coordinated breathing and slow, graceful body movements, practicing Tai Chi aims to increase well-being.

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It has more recently been found that Tai Chi has physiological and psychosocial benefits and promotes balance control, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness in patients with chronic health conditions.

Tai chi is practiced by people all over the world and, as with yoga, is best to learn from an experienced teacher.