April is Stress Awareness Month, and with summer just around the corner, it’s also a great time to reboot health and fitness resolutions and officially say goodbye to our cozy winter routines. Who says you can’t address your mental and physical wellness at the same time? Exercise is often noted as one method for managing stress, but when it comes to easing tension and anxiety, some workouts are better and more efficient than others. We talked to Frida Harju, an expert from health app Lifesum, to find out her top five stress-busting exercises.
1. Running: Maybe going for a jog is your least favorite way to squeeze in a cardio workout, but hear us out: Running is one of the best ways to relieve stress. Even if you’re not very “good” at it, running is a high-intensity activity that releases mood-lifting endorphins. According to Harju, it’s also “a form of exercise that requires very little active thinking, allowing your mind to completely switch off and let go of all the troublesome thoughts that may be weighing it down.” It sounds a little like meditation, right? See how it feels to go for a jog without putting pressure or expectations on yourself… you may start to love that zen running feeling, after all.
2. Martial Arts: If you’ve always secretly wanted to try out karate, judo, kendo, or any of the other many disciplines of martial arts, their stress-fighting benefits should give you the final push you’ve needed to actually take a class. “Martial arts allow you to physically channel the energy and frustration that stress creates, while also giving your entire body a great workout,” Harju says. It doesn’t hurt that learning martial arts is also a great way to empower yourself with some basic self-defense techniques. Hi-ya!
3. Office Stretches: We’re willing to bet our brand new spring trench that a lot of the stress you’re feeling comes straight from the office. Your boss may be a challenge to deal with or your colleagues may be more frenemies than friends, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find ways to relieve stress at work. Harju suggests a few stretches that you can do without even leaving your chair. Try placing your head into your hands, pressing your palms into your forehead as if to push your head backwards, and resisting using your neck muscles. Then, clasp your hands together behind your head and push your head backwards, this time using your hands to resist. Our necks and shoulders tend to carry a lot of stress, and these stretches will loosen those tired muscles.
4. Team Sports: “Exercising with others, particularly as part of a team, can be incredibly rewarding, as it establishes positive relationships and camaraderie,” Harju says. “Socializing is also a good way to manage stress, since it can make you feel relaxed and reduce anxiety.” Check out local intramural leagues (sure, kickball counts) or put a team together yourself. Then get out there on that field! If you ever played a sport like volleyball, basketball, or soccer in high school or college, you’ll also get a confidence boost from rediscovering your skills.
5. Yoga: It’s no secret that yoga is as good for your mind as it is for your body. “Not only will yoga push your body, but it’ll also loosen up your muscles and afford you a sense of calm through the focus on breathing,” Harju says. Grab your mat, try a down dog or two, and breathe your worries away.
What are your favorite workouts for relieving stress? Tweet us @BritandCo!
(Photos via Brit + Co)