Exercise is one of the most powerful cures for prolonged stress. Not only will it help you relieve stress, but it’ll also promote your overall sense of energy and wellbeing, further enhancing your emotional state.
Exercise causes the release of endorphins, the body’s “feel good” neurotransmitter, which will instantly help you feel better and less stressed. It’ll also help get more blood and oxygen to your brain cells and to your body’s toxin removal systems, which will even further help you reduce your stress.
In addition to the physiological benefits, you also have the psychological benefit of being completely distracted from your problems for 30 minutes to an hour. Intense exercise is so attention consuming that you’ll likely get completely sucked in to whatever you’re doing and take your mind off of whatever was stressing you out.
Finally, exercise can help you build a completely different community of people who are centered around being physically and emotionally fit. Having a group of people who aren’t work or family related who support you can go a long way towards relieving stress.
So how do you get started?
==>Picking an Exercise to Get Into
The two most important criteria to meet when picking an exercise to get into for stress relief is to make sure it raises your heart rate and that you can really get into it.
The first is important because research shows that most of the benefits of exercise for stress relief come from increased heart rate, blood flow and increased oxygen. Aerobic exercise is generally much better for this than anaerobic exercise.
Does that mean you shouldn’t weight lift or do yoga? No; but if you’re looking to do exercise for stress relief, you should pick at least one aerobic exercise and supplement it with an anaerobic exercise only if you want to.
The second requirement, that it’s something you can really get into, is necessary for two reasons. First, so you actually stick to the exercise in the long run. Second, so it can actually detract from your stress rather than add to it.
==>A Special Nod to Martial Arts
Exercises that involve martial arts or combat are especially great for stress relief. In addition to being a cardiovascular workout, you also get to work out a lot of the aggression that tends to build up with stress.
Most martial arts workouts are lead by an instructor, who’ll push you beyond your limits. Try to pick a martial art that’s more workout-based (E.g. Thai Boxing) rather than something more technique based (E.g. Aikido.)
If you’re not too keen on actually hitting or being hit, kickboxing is a great alternative.
==>The 3 Month Trial Period
Exercise may very well be the “cure all” when it comes to stress management, but the results don’t show overnight. You can’t go for a jog once an expect to feel permanently more relaxed.
Instead, the results are much more incremental. To get the full stress relieving benefits of exercise, commit to a 3 month trial period. You’ll likely start to see changes within a couple weeks or so; but it may take a couple months before you feel like a totally different person.