Before we dive into the types of exercise that you can use to relieve stress, let me explain why stress can be bad for your health. A high level of lifestyle stress has been associated with everything from an increased risk of Hypertension and Heart Disease to Depression and Obesity.
Since this is a column about dropping the weight, let’s talk about how stress can make you overweight or obese. Stress can cause you to eat more food and eventually pile on the kilograms in an attempt to cope. The thing that makes matters worse is the fact that most of the foods you crave when you’re stressed are high-starch, high-calorie, and waistline-increasing fare.
Stress also encourages your body to deposit any fat stores that you have around your midsection. This means that you’re probably eating unhealthy stuff to help manage your stress and your stress is making sure that the excess energy from this food sits around the flat tummy you’ve always wanted.
The bottom line result is a spare tire that nobody wants and stubborn fat that doesn’t want to go away. Now that you have a basic understanding of how this works against, let’s look at four forms of exercise that can help you break this cycle.
This is one of my favorite ways to relieve stress because it was built for that purpose. The deep breathing that’s a part of every yoga class helps calm your parasympathetic nervous system – the system that controls your fight or flight response. The Yoga practice can also be adapted to any fitness level so you don’t have to deal with any added stress of being “good at it.
The key to using Yoga as an effective method of stress relief is to turn in. This means that you should focus less on what the other women or men in the class look like and focus on how your body feels. Doing this will also make you less self conscious and more likely to explore the full range of what your body is capable of doing even as you get rid of stress.
Running or Lifting Weights
These two forms of exercise are great ways to relieve stress for the solitary soul who wants to be left alone. You can get a good quality pair of wireless headphones, plan your workout in advance of when you need it, and press play on your music play and get to work when it’s time to workout.
Even if you’re not one who enjoys long periods of time in your own company, relieving stress this way can be helpful to you if you spend a lot of your day around people. Time alone working out can be a much needed mental break from the chatter of others and it can help you come up with ideas that you normally would put out of your mind because you’re always around people.
Stress can stem from more than just work. It could be related to not seeing your girlfriends often enough or spending too much time alone and Zumba can be one way to kill two birds with one stone i.e. you can invite your girls out for a Zumba dance party and get your people fix all in one go
Bottom line if you’re a social butterfly who spends most of her time working at a computer doing solitary work, Zumba or any other group exercise class that thrives on social interaction would be a good way to relieve work-related stress.
Partner Based Fitness
This is particularly appropriate if you feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders with no help in sight. Taking a class where you’re required to rely on a partner can help you experience the feeling of being supported.
It can also help you practice the skill of asking for help. A lot of us think that we’re left to tackle the challenges in life because others think we’re best at it, but sometimes they leave us to it because we don’t ask for help. Practicing how to ask for help in the safe context of exercise can help you remedy this.
Exercises that do well with partners include heavy weight lifting like bench pressing, but you can make any workout partner worthy if you choose.
Over to You:If you’re dealing with a hectic schedule and have a lot of stress in your life, look through your schedule and make time for exercise to help you relieve that stress. You can pick from one of the four options above or you can choose something that you already know works for you – you know yourself best so use that knowledge.
Whatever you choose to do, make the time to manage and relieve your stress. Your body and your waistline will thank you.