Seven out of ten adults experience stress and anxiety daily (1). Exercise is the best stress buster (2). Be it work pressure, life problems, or social media frenzy, exercising can help calm your mind. A peaceful mind can prevent/protect you from physical and mental harm (3), (4).
Exercising improves blood circulation and stimulates the secretion of endorphins or “feel good” hormones (1). Within minutes of exercising, you will start to feel energetic and rejuvenated. So, no more feeling fatigued, disturbed, and worried! Learn about the 10 most effective exercises for reducing stress and anxiety. Do them daily, and you will start leading a healthier and happier life.
How Exercises Help In Reducing Stress And Anxiety?
Exercising induces the secretion of endorphins (also known as natural painkillers) and reduces the level of the stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol). This, in turn, induces sleep and reduces stress. Regular aerobic exercise improves self-esteem, boosts confidence levels, and helps stabilize mood (1), (5).
Scientists have found that exercising reduces stress, which, in turn, reduces the possibility of central fat deposition, thereby reducing the incidences of cardiometabolic and emotional diseases (6).
So, when you are stressed out, exercising should be your number one priority. Yes, it will be difficult to get up and get going. But once you do it, you will get into a habit. Here are the 10 best exercises to do to reduce stress and anxiety. Take a look.
10 Best Exercises To Reduce Stress And Anxiety
Breathing Exercises To Relieve Stress
1. Belly Breathing
Belly breathing or diaphragm breathing is a popular technique to help reduce stress and anxiety. The diaphragm is a muscular sheet that separates the lungs from the stomach and other visceral organs. When you breathe, your diaphragm contracts and moves down. The lungs expand, creating negative air pressure, enabling you to take in air. When you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward, and the lungs constrict, thereby expelling the air out.
Here’s how to do belly breathing:
- Lie down on a mat.
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower rib cage.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose. Feel both your hands move up. Do not force the breathing.
- Exhale through the mouth with pursed lips. Feel your hands move down. Do not constrict your abdominal muscles forcibly.
2. One-Minute Breathing
A popular yoga technique, one-minute breathing is very effective when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit straight on a chair.
- Join the tips of your index fingers and thumbs and place your hands on your thighs. Relax.
- Inhale slowly through your nose. Count 1-10.
- Exhale slowly through your nose. Count 1-10.
3. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This is also a popular yoga technique known as Nadi Shodhana Pranayama. It has been around for ages and is one of the best breathing exercises to reduce stress and anxiety. You must practice it every day. Here’s how to do it:
- Sit straight on a chair or on the floor with your legs folded.
- Place your left hand on your left knee.
- Place your right thumb on your right nostril and close it.
- Inhale slowly through your left nostril. Count 1-10.
- Hold your breath and close your left nostril with your right ring finger. Simultaneously, open your right nostril.
- Slowly breathe out with your right nostril. Count 1-10.
- Breathe in through your right nostril and breathe out through your left nostril.
4. Tai Chi
Based on the Yin and Yang philosophy, Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that can help improve your health by reducing stress and anxiety. Traditionally used as a defense mechanism, it is now popular as one of the most effective ways to relax and flush negative energy out of the body and mind. Join a Tai Chi class if you remotely like yoga or Pilates.
Pilates is an amalgamation of Western exercise and Eastern yoga therapy. It was created to help the injured soldiers of World War II recover faster. Today, it is one of the most sought after exercises that help strengthen the body, increase flexibility, and reduce anxiety and stress. Join a Pilates class and train with a trainer. You will soon start experiencing all the positive aspects of Pilates in your daily life.
If venting out works helps you lower stress, kickboxing is a great exercise for that. Not only will you become a strategic fighter like Jet Lee, but you will also become more confident, swift, and proactive, and will not get stressed out or anxious quickly.
Once a runner, always a runner. That’s because there’s no high like running high. Running regularly can definitely help you feel more relaxed and less anxious. Whenever you feel anxiety choking you up or stress taking a physical form, wear your running shoes and start running. Run on a treadmill or on a track.
8. Team Sports
Playing team sports like football, hockey, cricket, badminton, tennis, and basketball works like magic in reducing anxiety and stress. Running, striking, shouting, and sweating help lower the stress hormones and boost your metabolic rate and the levels of “feel good” hormones. Join a club today and start going for practices and matches. You will definitely see a difference.
Be it biking, stationary biking, or mountain biking, cycling is a great way to reduce stress and anxiety. This cardio is great for your legs and glutes as well. If you are feeling stressed or anxious, just hop on your bicycle and pedal. You will feel relieved and calm.
Zumba is an amazing way to burn 500 calories in 60 minutes. This dance form is an aerobic exercise (cardio) that gets your heart rate up, increases lung function, and induces sweat. Just 20 minutes into the session, and you will start to experience less stress and anxiety. You will also feel energized and rejuvenated.
There you go – 10 incredibly effective exercises for reducing stress and anxiety. Practice a combination of these for at least 20 minutes, and you will see a huge difference in the way you deal with a trigger situation. Your immunity and overall well-being will also improve exponentially. If you still find it difficult to deal with stress and anxiety, talk to a doctor. You may also talk to a friend about what is bothering you. It will help for sure. Take care!
- “Physical Activity Reduces Stress” Anxiety And Depression Association of America.
- “Exercise is an effective stress-buster” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
- “What is Stress?” The American Institute of Stress.
- “The impact of stress on body function: A review” EXCLI Journal, US National Library of Medicine.
- “Exercising to relax” Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.
- “The protective role of exercise on stress system dysregulation and comorbidities.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.