Feeling a bit amped up lately? Research shows exercise could be the key to feeling less stressed. Getting the heart rate up releases feel good chemicals in your brain, and that could be the key to being happier more often.
Luckily, stress is here to stay, #winning! So what can we do about it? How can we reduce its effects? One word: move.
Exercise has been shown to reduce fatigue, improve your states of alertness as well as concentration in addition to enhancing our overall brain function. The mind body connection is critical to not only move, but feel our best as well. This is why movements that produce edorphins (the brain's natural pain killers) are important. Consistent aerobic exercise can also reduce tension, pick your mood up and even improve yourself esteem (1).
"Exercise is so important for your health and it just plain makes you feel good," says Karen Koutsavlis from NewEngland360. "To minimize stress it can take just some simple movements...walking for example. You'll be able to tackle more obstacles with a better attitude and take on challenges with the positivity to find the best possible solutions."
Want to stop the mental monkies from trying to take over a good mood? Go outside and play.
Research shows nature is a great mental detox tool. Nothing centers me more than hiking or flowing on tasty singletrack on my mountain bike. Turns out, there's a really good reason as to why
Researchers have found that hiking has an effect on not only our moods, but the brain itself. A Canadian study done at the University of British Columbia on women over the age of 70 found hiking led to an increased volume of the area of the brain that deals with both spacial and episodic memory. Meaning, hiking can both prevent and and help with memory loss in addition to the stress reduction benefits (2).
"If you are doing it outside (exercising), you get the added benefit of aiding your natural circadian rhythm by getting exposure to natural sunlight," says Daniella Dayoub from DFitLife. "In addition, exercise helps with blood sugar regulation."
Aerobic exercise has been found to reduce our levels of adrenaline and cortisol. It can also help you gain a sense of higher self esteem, a higher sense of control and elevated levels of self confidence (3).
Exercise is "meditation in motion," and its one of the main reasons it is so effective at helping you combat stress. It helps you leave a negative moods in the gym (on the field, on the trail, etc) as you increase your concentration levels, clarity and overall optimism (4).
"Exercise reduces stress because takes your mind off of the things stressing you out and helps you focus on being in the moment," says Marcel Linza from 3Fitn Fitness. "A great stress reducing, full body, functional workout is sledge hammer work on a tire."
On of my favorire stress buster methods is to use complexes that target a front+ back + lower body movement scheme. Combining pushups combined with suspension trainer rows works well for this.
These movemnts are easy to implement (not too mention they are core strength fundamentals) and with the right rep scheme and work to rest ratio, you can get the heart rate going quite a bit. And as stated above, we know higher heart rates in a workout help with stress management.
To add in a lower body component for a hat trick of health 3-exercise superset, try exercise band side stepping would. This combination allows you to hit pretty much every muscle in the body. You will also give the upper body a breather in between sets of pushing and pulling.
This simple set of combined moves can look like this:
:30 of Pushups
:30 of Side Steps
:30 of Suspension Trainer Rows
:30 Sides Steps
Wash, Rinse, Repeat 4 times
1) "Physical Activity Reduces Stress," Anxiety and Despression Association of America
2) "Doctors Explain How Hiking Actually, Changes Our Brains," Alanna Ketler, Collective Evolution April 8, 2016
3) "Exercising to Relax," Harvard Men's Health Watch, Harvard Health Publications, Harvard Medical School
4) "Exercise and Stress: Get Moving to Manage Stress," Mayo Clinic