September 17 2017

From the Pros: The 5 Best Exercises to Beat Stress by Victoria Roseberry, Guest Blogger

Early mornings, late nights, and way too many deadlines — sound familiar? If you’re a girl with ambition, it’s easy to feel burnt out fast. Just finding time for yourself can seem like extra work, let alone actually doing anything with it! But if you’re at your wits’ end with your career, it’s worth the effort.

Stressing Out

Burnout is real. It can happen to you. It doesn’t make you a bad employee or a failure, but if you can avoid it, you should. The key is finding the right balance between your own life and your work life, and respecting your own boundaries. It might take some time to figure out your limits, and that’s okay! But once you do, take a big step back from that edge, then draw your line a safe distance from it.

Paying some attention to your body is a great way to find your footing when you need some time to yourself. “In one study, researchers found that those who got regular vigorous exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop depression or an anxiety disorder over the next five years,” notes a resource from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Exercising improves awareness, cognitive function, and memory. It also released endorphins that boost your mood.

Losing rest? It’s no substitute, but, “Reducing regular sleep by just one hour each night can lead to a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, which can prevent deep, regenerative sleep, making it even harder to sleep. Exercise is the one factor that has been shown to redress that imbalance,” according to Professor Jim Horne from the Sleep Research Centre at Loughborough University in the UK.

Working it Out

The key to reaping stress-relieving rewards from working out is establishing a consistent routine that works for you.

If going to the gym hasn’t been your thing in the past and you’re just starting out, give yourself some time to adjust to the changes. Try sticking with one or two exercises for at least a month before you decide it’s not for you. It might take some time to find what exercises you like best, so give each activity a fair try and don’t be afraid to walk away from the ones you hate.

If you’re a gym rat already, be sure to mix up your routine occasionally to avoid an exercise rut. It never hurts to try something new, and the gym can start to feel pretty boring if you do the same workout every time. Plus, it’s a great idea to vary activity to keep your body guessing.

Almost any kind of exercise can be a great stress reliever. Focusing on the mental benefits of exercise, instead of weight loss or body recomposition, can help keep you motivated to stick with your routine. These workouts are great for burning off stress, and we’ve got the expert insight on why:

1. Lifting

The barbell can provide a great gym therapy session.

“You can maximize the stress reduction from endorphins with a multi-joint weight-lifting workout and rest periods between sets,” says lifting coach Trisha McNary.

She continues, “Testing by the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine found that a weight-training workout consisting of three moderate-weight sets of 10 repetitions with one-minute rest periods produced significantly more endorphins than heavier sets of five repetitions with three-minute rests.”

That’s great news for those of us who insist they don’t want to lift because they’ll end up bulky — high rep, low weight lifts are great for building and toning.

2. Kickboxing

Kickboxing combines the martial arts with high-intensity cardio for a full-body workout.

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Fitness 19 writer Barbara Gibson gives us the scoop: “Kickboxing is a powerful stress buster. The high energy workout encourages the flow of endorphins, reduces anxiety and provides a useful outlet for frustrations big and small.” Punch out that rage, girl!

3. Yoga

Yoga has long been popular for its powerful soothing effects. Focusing on your body gets you out of your head, a great mindfulness technique.

“Yoga helps us slow down for a moment and tune into the breath. Simply the focus on one thing — which is the very definition of meditation — allows us to decompress,” says Dr. Terri Kennedy, registered yoga teacher and president of Power Living Enterprises, Inc.

Take a few minutes next time you feel like you’re about to lose it and stretch it out instead.

4. Cycling

Here’s another great reason to work in that spin class: cycling is highly stress relieving.

“Riding a bike is ideal because it’s so accessible and achievable – and the mountain of scientific evidence pointing towards its stress-busting properties is growing by the day,” according to Neil Shah of the Stress Management Society.

Cycling is a great choice because it’s flexible. You can set aside time for it specifically or try working it in as a form of daily transportation.

5. Running

Running has long been recognized for its mind-clearing effects. It improves focus and promotes forward thought, helping you problem solve as you train your body.

Running coach Ryan Light shares this tip: “One of the most important ways that running can positively impact your mental health comes from your decision to do it. When you make a commitment to yourself to go for regular runs, it’s a self-affirmation that you are important, you value yourself, and that you have decided to reclaim an hour out of your day to do something just for you.”

These exercises are a great place to start if you’re looking for a good way to relieve stress, but they’re just a few of the many options you have. See if one feels like a good fit for your schedule — remember that the key is sticking to a routine. Next happy hour, try hitting the trails or the weight rack instead of the bar. When your body is happy, it helps your mind be happy too.

Victoria is a writer and recent graduate who lives in the Northwest. She loves strong coffee, great grammar, and learning about cryptocurrencies. When she’s not writing, she’s cooking vegetarian food or running in the trails near her home.


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