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The Top Stress-Management Exercises

Posted by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 10:47 AM
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The Top Stress-Management Exercises

Any exercise can offer mind-body benefits, but activities that add breathing and meditation to movement are top choices for stress management.

You probably already know that regular exercise can help you control your weight and protect your health from various diseases. But exercise can also help with stress management.

Stress management

“Exercise releases endorphins,” says Rona Lewis, a certified personal trainer in Los Angeles, “and endorphins are energy-producing proteins that make us feel better and improve our mood.”

Any exercise can help reduce stress, so choose one that you enjoy, says Suzanne Reilley, also a certified personal trainer in the Los Angeles area. “I’m a rock climber and when I climb, I feel it’s a meditative dance at the wall. Any stressful thoughts I have on my mind go away. For me it’s a huge stress reducer.” However, she says, if you have a fear of heights, rock climbing would be too stressful. You need to find a stress-reducing activity that suits you.

The Magic of Mind-Body Exercises

Mind-body exercises are physical activities that focus on breathing, mental concentration, and a higher awareness of your movements. These disciplines are known to be great for stress management:

  • Yoga. You can find all kinds of yoga classes designed around various moving and stationary poses, some more intense than others, Reilley says. Many people find that classes labeled “gentle” or “for beginners” are best for stress relief. However, it really depends on you and what you find works well, she says. Yoga requires that you concentrate on your breathing, which helps makes it a stress management exercise.
  • Tai chi. Like yoga, tai chi is a combination of flowing body movements and meditation. Because tai chi requires that you concentrate and relax, it’s a physical exercise that calms the mind as well. Like yoga, tai chi can vary in intensity and focus, and you need to choose the class level that’s right for you.
  • Pilates. Pilates is a series of movements and stretches that strengthen and tone muscle, improve flexibility and balance, and unite the mind and body. The end result: You burn calories while learning to relax.

More Great Stress-Relieving Exercises

If mind-body exercises aren’t right for you, you can still find stress management through your workouts. Any type of physical fitness can release built up energy and stress. Here are some favorites:

  • Kickboxing. You can release your frustrations with this high-energy workout, which makes it a great stress-management exercise. When you learn kickboxing, you also learn how to breathe correctly, which helps you release stress from your body.
  • Walking or running. Many people find that going for a walk or a run provides more than a great workout — it also helps clear their head, Lewis says. Getting outdoors for your jogs is good because the sunshine and nature can be mood lifters, too.
  • Going with the buddy system. Another workout tip for stress relief is to exercise with a friend. “While you’re exercising, you’re chatting,” says Reilley. “If it’s about what’s stressing you out, that conversation can give you ideas for solving your problems.” And if you talk about another topic, you can get your mind off your troubles, she adds.

To help reduce stress levels, you need at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, Lewis says. To get the most benefits, you should exercise for at least 30 minutes five or six times a week. But even a small amount of exercise will help lift your mood.

When to exercise depends on what’s best for you. “Exercise when you can or when you feel up to it,” Lewis says. For some people that is first thing in the morning, before the busyness of the day begins; and for others working out at the end of the day helps them relax and unwind.

The most important thing for stress management and your overall health is simply to exercise — and you’re more likely to keep it up if you can find exercises you enjoy, a workout buddy to keep you motivated, and a time that fits your schedule.

Last Updated: 03/02/2011
This section created and produced exclusively by the editorial staff of © 2011; all rights reserved.

by on Apr. 13, 2011 at 10:47 AM
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