We all know exercise is good for us. But just how helpful can it be to lower your stress levels? Let’s face it; stress has become such a normal fixture in our daily lives that some of us can’t remember what it is like not to be stressed out every minute of the day. Unfortunately, this constant state of alert can cause our bodies to work overtime resulting in multiple system failures. There is a reason we are legally required to take breaks at work, and it’s not just to meet labor laws. Our bodies need downtime to repair themselves and build up energy for future tasks. When we neglect our bodies’ needs, the payback can end up costing us more than we bargained for.
The Purpose Of Stress
Stress is actually part of our body’s natural defense. In situations where our lives are in danger, the brain will activate the release of Cortisol. Cortisol is one of the hormones that is released in response to stress. While Cortisol is mainly known for its involvement in the body’s response to stress it also serves other purposes. Cortisol assists in the regulation of blood sugar levels, balancing metabolism, reducing inflammation, and even in the formation of memories. Its natural effects on water and salt balance, make it ideal for aiding in the regulation of blood pressure. In women, Cortisol also plays a key role in the development of the fetus during pregnancy. When our levels become out of balance they can present themselves in a number of ways.
Danger Zone Ahead
Some of the signs and symptoms that can indicate excess levels of Cortisol are: feeling overly alert yet exhausted, difficulty falling and or staying asleep, feeling anxious or nervousness, easily irritated, memory lapse, easily distracted, craving sugar, weight gain (especially around the waist), indigestion, GERD and other digestive issues, as well as skin issues such as eczema or psoriasis. The unfortunate reality is that we all display at least one, if not multiple, of these signs and symptoms. Due to our constant exposure to stress from looming deadlines, money woes, and even the foods we eat. We are in near constant exposure to stressful situations. That’s why I like to approach this constant health hurdle in a number of ways: hormones, nutrition, supplements, mindset, sleep, and of course exercise.
5 Best Exercises To Lower Stress Levels
When it comes to stress, we can use all the help we can get. Luckily, several all-natural options can help us do just that. The following is a list of my top five favorite exercises to help reduce your stress with ease:
- Tai Chi
One of my favorite options for a number of reasons is yoga. Yoga is a great exercise option for stress relief because there are a number of different intensity levels and they are all designed to help promote breathing and circulation. Breathing and circulation are often the first areas to take the largest hit during times of high stress. Yoga postures are a form of strength training, making you more resilient and flexible, which in turn relieves physical tension. It also uses deep breathing, which triggers the body’s relaxation response. Yoga classes that appeal to all ages, temperaments, and fitness levels abound at gyms, studios, and community colleges. Some classes, such as hatha, are gentler and focus primarily on stress reduction, while others – ashtanga, vinyasa, power, Bikram – are more athletic.
Often called “meditation in motion,” tai chi promotes a focus on the present – a mental absorption in which everyday worries fall away. Tai chi also increases flexibility and boosts energy, which results in an improved sense of well-being. Other benefits include better balance, more restful sleep, and increased cardiovascular fitness. Tai chi consists of more than 100 gentle, fluid movements linked with each other and your breath; unlike yoga, there are no pauses between the poses. Like yoga, there are several styles of tai chi that range in intensity. One of the best benefits of this option is the sense of calm and peace it naturally invokes in those who practice it.
Easily one of the simplest of options, yet highly effective at naturally lowering stress levels. Walking frequently can reduce the incidence of many stress-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. People with regular walking regimens also report reduced stress levels and self-confidence that come from taking an active role in their well-being. If you’re just getting started on walking for exercise, aim for two 10-minute walks a week. Five or six 30-minute walks a week are usually recommended to maintain health and stress management. To lose weight, you’ll have to make those walks longer when you have time (say, 90 minutes on Sundays) and/or more intense (take a hilly route or ramp up speed). Your breath should be heavy but not labored.
Another exercise option that comes with added benefits is dancing. Dancing has many physical, mental, and even emotional benefits. It’s a great workout that improves grace and agility as it raises your heart rate. And researchers have found that people who ballroom dance twice a week have less risk of developing dementia, perhaps because learning new steps challenges your brain too. Dancing also fosters a sense of community and connection to other people, lowering stress levels and boosting happiness. One of my favorite things about this option is that it too has different levels of intensity, but the fact that it combines music with motion. Music has been shown to help naturally lower your stress level and even improve cognitive function.
Like yoga, the mental concentration required for Pilates pulls you into the moment, leaving little mental space for worrying. Pilates is a series of exercises that emphasizes body awareness, core strength, and proper alignment. With its equal focus on strengthening and lengthening muscles, Pilates creates a physical harmony that simply doesn’t allow stress to take hold as easily. It is known for reducing back and neck pain, another side effect of stress. Pilates can be performed on a machine known as “The Reformer” – typically available only in Pilates studios – or on a mat on the floor (logically labeled “mat” or “floor” Pilates on gym schedules). Again, just like the other exercises this too has many different levels of intensity that allow you to grow into some of the more strenuous movements.
Strawberry Pretzel Cake
Gluten Free Dairy Free Serves 16
- 1 ½ Cups Crushed Gluten Free Pretzels
- 4 ½ Tbsp Whole Earth Stevia Monk Fruit Sugar
- 8 Ounces Coconut Whipped Cream
- ¾ Cup Vegan Butter, Melted
- 1 Cup Coconut Sugar
- 2 (8 Ounce) Packages Vegan Cream Cheese
- 1 (6 Ounce) Package Strawberry Flavored Jello
- 2 Cups Boiling Water
- 16 Ounces Frozen Strawberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together pretzels, 4 ½ Tbsp Stevia sugar, and melted butter. Press mixture into the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking dish. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, or until lightly browned, and set aside to cool completely. In a medium bowl, beat sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Fold in the whipped cream. Spread cream mixture evenly over cooled crust. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. In a medium bowl, stir together gelatin mix and boiling water. Stir in frozen berries until thawed. Pour gelatin mixture over cream cheese mixture in the pan and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until set.
Need A Hand?
A happy and healthy life is closer than you may think. Our health is something that we all have to deal with daily, and when we don’t feel our best, it shows. If you are tired of just making it through your day, you NEED to start investing in your health today! You are not alone on this journey. If you ever need any help, I am always here to do just that. Even if it is something as small as just acting as a sounding board, do you have any questions or concerns I can help you with? Feel free to contact me directly at DrDeeandMe@gmail.com, or you can even book a one-on-one call with me. Be sure to subscribe to gain access to tons of free goodies and check back daily for more great recipes and information!