“In this world,” Benjamin Franklin is purported to have said, “nothing is certain but death and taxes.” Were the venerated patriot to be transported to the hyper-competitive, hyper-kinetic twenty-first century, he might very well have added “stress” to his list of life’s certainties.
Though it is inevitable, stress can be managed. Check out these three types of exercise that can help.
Vigorous exercise, the kind that raises your pulse, breathing, and heart rate, has long been determined to proffer loads of benefits to the body. But aerobic exercise like running, jogging, Zumba, and spinning also have a marked effect on the brain.
Science has shown that aerobic exercise, done regularly, can:
- Decrease overall anxiety
- Elevate and/or stabilize your mood
- Improve sleep quality
- Improve alertness and focus
- Increase cognitive function
There’s a scientifically-proven neurological basis to these claims. Cardiovascular workouts reduce stress hormone levels. They also increase the amount of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, in the brain.
You don’t have to risk your hip or knee joints in order to reduce stress and reap the mental rewards of exercise. Meditation and meditative exercises, including some variations of yoga and tai chi, afford the same benefits.
At Coventry University in Great Britain, a review of eighteen studies on the effects of meditation, yoga, and tai chi on the human genome revealed that mind-body activities work on the genetic level to ease depression and alleviate poor health. This works, in part, by muffling what stress and anxiety can do to your body on the molecular level.
Group sports have multiple benefits. First, engaging in group exercise via a team, whether it be kickball, bowling, dodge ball, or tennis, increases the probability that you’ll stay on track. It’s a lot easier to skip that early-morning sub-zero run than it is to skip a pick-up baseball game when the team is counting on you.
The second benefit is to your mental health. The Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise studied the connection between team sports and mental health in two Australian club sports, tennis and netball. They determined that women who took part in team sports enjoyed stronger mental health and overall life satisfaction than women who worked out on their own.
If you’re looking to reduce stress levels using exercise, don’t make the exercise another source of stress. Be sure to choose a fitness routine that fits your life and makes you happy.