We’ve all experienced the freedom movement gives us, if only briefly, from stress. Even getting up from our desks to go yell at someone takes us out of our emotions ever so slightly.
That effect is multiplied exponentially with higher-intensity workouts releasing powerful bursts of endorphins to produce the famed “runner’s high” that many of us have learned to crave.
The benefits of working out increase our well-being on all fronts — stronger hearts and lungs, better mood, more energy, more restful sleep, faster metabolism. They all help us cope better with stress and anxiety.
It calms our minds by bringing our focus back to our bodies, and its repetitive motions can function as “meditation in motion.” It builds self-confidence and can promote social interaction.
Every type of exercise can foster these positive effects, but let’s take a look at five moderate- to high-intensity activities especially good at being the escape valve we’re looking for!
We’ve already talked about “runner’s high,” but walking at a moderate or brisk pace is more achievable for a lot of people and can be just as effective at unloosing those happy endorphins, raising spirits and getting the heart beating strong. Walking in a park or natural environment gives you the most bang for each step, but walking inside your home, in a gym or a mall is a fantastic stressbuster.
The ancient practice is one that generally comes to mind when we talk about stress- or anxiety-relieving exercises. Beginners should start out with the gentler forms that consist of slow movements and static stretching, like hatha or yin yoga. The meditative nature of the movements and the deep breathing that accompanies them are tailored to boost the relaxation response.
This is one of the best workouts to choose to release pent-up frustration and anger. Punching and kicking are two of our instinctual responses to these emotions, and this discipline is a chance to do it without hurting yourself or anyone else, as long as you don’t overdo it. You’re taught controlled movements that bring your thoughts back to the present moment and boost your mental and physical strength.
Another activity that floods your body with endorphins and requires your full attention, weightlifting or strength training yields results you can feel after every session, both in the tightness of your muscles and the more sculpted body you can see in the mirror. This increases your self-esteem and helps you feel more competent about tackling any other problems that cross your path.
Who doesn’t love to unleash their bodies to the rhythm of their favorite song? Some people are more comfortable doing this in front of a crowd than others, but that doesn’t need to stop you from trying it in the comfort of your own home. This can be as simple as turning up your favorite artist’s channel on Pandora or as targeted as following a dance-based program like Zumba or Dance Cardio.