The question is not whether we’ll get stressed—thanks to work, family obligations and money, it’s nearly a guarantee. Rather, the question should be: How will it affect our lives when it hits?
Stress infiltrates every area of our world, which makes it feel next to impossible to do anything other than worry. However, as an active person, if you let stress derail your workout every time it comes rolling through, you’ll never make it to the gym.
Instead of putting it off, choose to be active in a way that will help reduce your stress, making you feel calmer, stronger and more focused. Try one of these five workout ideas next time you’re having a high-stress week—you may find it actually goes away when you do.
Wind Down With Yoga
Yoga is one of the best ways to work out when you’re stressed. Not only does it strengthen all of your major muscle groups from upper body to core and lower body, but you’ll leave feeling less stressed too:
“By reducing perceived stress and anxiety, yoga appears to modulate stress response systems. This, in turn, decreases physiological arousal—for example, reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and easing respiration, “according to Harvard Health Publications.
It may even help you manage stress better next time around, “There is also evidence that yoga practices help increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body's ability to respond to stress more flexibly.”
If you don’t have a yoga studio membership and don’t want to pay for a class, try these alternatives:
- Do a series of stress-relieving poses (Yoga Journal offers an extensive, illustrated list) by yourself. Plan for at least 30 minutes of activity to reap the most benefits.
- Try an online yoga class. Some of my favorite places to find free full-length yoga videos are: Brett Larkin Yoga, My Free Yoga, and Fitness Blender.
Work it Out With Boxing
Boxing involves punching, grunting, kicking and sweating, all of which are perfect for working out the stress or anxiety of your day. Lauren Hurley told Aurora Group Fitness about her story of beating stress and anxiety with boxing. She explains:
“When I go train, I know that it is my time to let everything go and just focus on the exercise, the breathing, and the music. I don’t have to do anything for anyone else. I don’t have to fulfill any other role that describes my responsibilities. It’s just me and I’m my only obstacle. When I hit that bag, I’m defeating my self-doubt.”
Bust through your stress with a boxing workout at your local gym or nearby a boxing-specific gym. You can often find Groupon deals for boutique gyms like this, making it more affordable. The last thing you want is to stress even more about the money you’re spending.
Plan a Shorter Gym Session (And Get Active at Work)
If time is stressing you out—not enough time for a full workout before, during or after work, for example—cut your gym session short and make up for it throughout the day: “Often times while I’m waiting for the photocopier or the microwave I’ll do some small exercises like calf-raises, squats or lunges. If I can squeeze in some here and there during the work day, it just means I have less to cram in later,” explains Cristina Dulin, with Fit2Run, The Runner’s Superstore.
A fringe benefit of finding more time for activity during the day is increased productivity and energy and reduced stress: “Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins—chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress,” according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
Other simple exercises to do at work include:
- Squats during bathroom breaks
- Lunges down empty hallways
- Wall pushups
- Walking the stairs
Forget About Your Stress With HIIT
HIIT (high intensity interval training) is a great workout when you’re stressed because you don’t time to think about anything but getting through the exercises. Most HIIT classes and workouts are set up for constant movement with minimal breaks—often 30 seconds on, 20 seconds off. When you’re not moving, you’re catching your breath.
This fast paced fitness style also helps improve your mental focus and leaves you feeling strong. Both of these can contribute to reduced stress, both afterward and for the rest of the day.
If you can’t find a HIIT class near you, write your own routine (Use these HIIT tips to structure workout properly) or find an online class. Fitness Blender, which was mentioned above, offers dozens of HIIT and Tabata-style workouts from 10 to 65 minutes long.
Choose a Workout You Love
Forcing yourself to do a workout is stressful—even if it’s supposed to be stress relieving. If you’re already feeling stressed an anxious, the last thing you want do is pile on more, which is why choosing a workout that you enjoy doing is often your best option.
If you really enjoy running outside, block off some time, lace up your shoes, and go. If your favorite workout is a cardio class at your gym, get signed up for the next open slot. When you choose to do what you love, you’ll be happier, which in turn reduces stress and gives you something to look forward to.