Being stressed out is not fun. You may feel mentally exhausted, which leads to a lack of motivation to do anything physical, let alone exercise. To make things worse, stress can create physical ailments, including headaches, upset stomach, increased blood pressure, chest pain and sleeping problems. (More details on the physical effects of stress can be found here.) However, exercise can ease your stress and may even help you cope with future stressors.
Here are some ways staying active can ease your stress levels:
When you sleep, your body is busy repairing and re-fueling. When you’re stressed, sleeping (and sleeping well) can be a challenge — especially if you suffer from insomnia. Exercise helps you sleep better, and a new study found that long-term exercise can help insomnia.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s "2013 Sleep in America" poll, people who exercise — whether they do light, moderate or vigorous workouts — sleep better than people who do not exercise.
Is work the cause of your stress? Try to fit in a workout during your lunch break. The American Council on Exercise suggests working out away from the office — that means steering clear of corporate wellness facilities, as well — since a work-related conversation or even just anxious thoughts about work can strike up at a moment's notice (especially if your boss shows up!).
Depending on your type of stress, exercising solo or with friends is beneficial. Confined to your desk all day? Try some group fitness classes, like Zumba, with a friend. The feel-good music and choreography will take your mind off of whatever is bothering you. If you’re constantly surrounded by people, go for a long, quiet run or walk, and enjoy some much-needed quality “me” time.
Deep, controlled breathing is very effective for stress relief, and it’s one of the most important aspects of yoga. Deep breathing reduces your heart rate, regulates your breathing pattern and reduces blood pressure. In yoga, it’s called pranayama, which means “control of the life force.” The mind-body connection in yoga makes it an effective tool for reducing stress. Look up a class near you and watch your stress melt away.