For many of us, there are so many factors that trigger and bring on stress, regardless of how small or insignificant they may seem to others, a build of these triggers can lead to further problems. Whether you’re getting p’eed off about getting stuck in traffic every morning or you’re stressed from never having enough time to do anything you want.
Normal life can take its toll and we feel the pressure of trying to cram everything into a week, let alone a day. There are numerous ways we can help to reduce our stress levels and exercise or fitness classes can be one that helps to relieve our tension and worries.
It may seem strange to jam in yet another potential cause of stress, and yes exercise is stress but it’s a good form of stress according to Director of Research and Programming who told SELF, “it’s considered a good kind of stress that can actually help your body fight off the effects of the “bad” kind of stress”. This is because when we exercise our bodies release what is known as happy endorphins, which is the production of our brains feel-good neurotransmitters. Physical activity regardless of what it is, whether that be a brisk walk in the park or an aerobic exercise helps to pump and release these endorphins where we feel less stressed out, more relaxed and happier.
How does stress impact your mental and physical health?
Stress isn’t just an emotional issue; it can also cause physical health issues for us too. In fact, too much stress can lead to what is called chronic stress which can cause a number of health issues including depression, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, headaches, tummy ache, insomnia, anxiety and anger. These issues effect both men and women and even children. So, when we think about the impact it can have not just our emotional well-being but our physical health too its crucial, we try and relieve it in a healthy way, one of which can be daily workouts, fitness classes or forms of physical activity.
How does exercise actually help to relieve stress?
When we become stressed, our bodies and muscles can become tense, have you ever been angry and clenched your fists or entire body like you want to hit something? Well, that tension in our muscles can be released when we exercise which makes sense doesn’t it? Associate dean and professor of allied health programs at Pace University’s College of Health Professions, tells SELF “We often hold stress by tightening muscles and often don’t realize we are doing this,” she says. “The movement aspect relieves clenched muscles and stretches parts of the body that may be tight due to stress.”
Moving your bodies and muscles isn’t the only thing that can help, but breathing more deeply also promotes relaxation. According to the University of Michigan Health, “Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. Those things that happen when you are stressed, such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, and high blood pressure, all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.”
Now we know that stress can lead to mental and physical health issues, let’s look at how we can reduce it and what exercises and fitness classes are best to take to help us tackle it.
Best exercises to relieve stress
- Brisk Walking – According to the NHS a 30-minute walk 5 times a week can help to reduce your stress levels plus gives you multiple other health benefits too such as increasing your energy, getting you fitter, reducing blood pressure, help you to lose weight and helps you to sleep better. Walking is suitable for all ages, regardless of what level of fitness you’re at, you can take it at your own pace and build it up daily or weekly and as it’s a low impact workout it doesn’t apply much pressure to your joints.
- Jogging or running – depending on how your joints are, jogging or running can help to relieve stress even more than walking. You can put your headphones on and run to your favourite music or take a jog in your favourite park. Just being outdoors in the open air can help to relieve the stress of the day. Running is a fantastic way to lose weight quickly too, and stress can come from worrying about that so it’s a good way to combat the stress of worrying over your weight as well as the weight itself.
- Gardening – Most people don’t regard gardening as exercise but if you’ve ever got your hands dirty, you’ll know how weeding, mowing and raking can build up a right sweat. In fact, weeding alone can burn 200 calories an hour and raking can shed 600 calories an hour according to Everyday Health! Talk about killing two birds with one stone, not only have you shed the pounds, your garden will look fantastic too.
- Cycling – Cycling is a low-impact workout and is easy on the joints so it’s a great form of exercise for most people. It gets your heart pumping at a good rate which increases blood flow and releases those important happy endorphins. It’s also a lovely physical activity you can enjoy with the whole family, giving that the weather is okay!
- Dancing – For me personally, dancing has to be the ultimate stress-reliever! Busting out the moves to your favourite tunes whilst singing your head-off like Beyoncé, is there anything more enjoyable and care-free to do? Dancing not only relieves stress but it’s a solid workout that raises your heart rate and mood dramatically. It can improve your flexibility and co-ordination and if you go to dance classes it can improve your social life and connection with others.
Depending on your level of fitness or if you have any pre-existing health conditions you may want to speak with your doctor first before you begin any of the above exercises or fitness classes below. While most of them are low-impact and moderate forms of aerobic activity, you don’t want to cause yourself any further issues.
Now we’ve looked at what exercises help to relieve stress; we’re going to look at a variety of fitness classes for it too. The difference with fitness classes is that you can be around other people who can help to motivate you as well as making friends and good connections which is always a fantastic way to release stress. You are also guided by a personal trainer who’ll assist you through the class and they can provide one to one support so you can really focus on certain areas, which again helps you to forget about your worries and the issues that cause you stress in your daily life.
Best Fitness Classes to Relieve Stress
- Yoga – yoga is one of the best classes you can take to reduce stress as its focuses on the breath which enables the body’s relaxation response. Focusing on the breath also means your mind is completely focused on one thing and in the now so you’re not worrying about other things. Yoga classes strength your core and help to tone your muscles, they make your body more flexible and agile too. There are different types of yoga classes, some are slow and gentler where they truly focus on relieving stress such as hatha yoga and others can be more intense like power yoga or ashtanga and vinyasa.
- HIIT workout – HIIT Workouts can help to reduce your stress tremendously as they combine short intense bursts of energy with resistance training, usually in a 30-minute session. The High-intensity interval training gets your heart and blood pumping and you’re completely focused and in the moment of your workout. As you go through the busts on intense moves you can release your stress and negative feelings and really push yourself which will make you feel so accomplished after the workout. HIIT training has been proven to have both mental and physical health benefits for those who take regular classes.
- Circuit Training – Circuit training combines weight training with cardio, it’s a form of HIIT training so you’ll experience intense moves and short rests in between your weight lifting and cardio exercises. SELF say “It’s short, sweet and pumps up your body’s endorphin level, which improves your mood. Better yet, you don’t have to stress about finding lots of time to fit a workout in.”
- Pilates – Pilates, similar to yoga is a great fitness class that reduces stress and improves core strength, flexibility and proper alignment as well as being known to reduce neck and back pain. It’s more intense than yoga as it uses a sequence of moves that focus on strengthening and lengthening the muscles, the moves challenge the muscles at a deeper level in a short space of time so you can work up a bit of a sweat. Although it’s slightly more intense, it’s also deeply relaxing and focuses on the mind where you use breathing techniques that will calm it and relax your body, relieving you of stress and tension.
We hope you found this information useful if you’re currently having a hard time with whatever is causing you stress as you could try some of these exercises or classes to see if they help. Many things can impact our stress levels such as work, children, household chores, finances, illnesses, loss of loved ones, the list goes on. It’s important you take time our for yourself to relieve your stress and exercise can be one the best tricks in the book that will work for you.
Join us at Luxe Fitness and come along to our fitness classes in Bristol where you can be around happy and motivated people you can connect with. You also have the option of joining our virtual classes so you can work out from home without the need of having to travel in any stressful traffic!