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  • Daniel K, MSpCoach

Exercising As a Stress-Coping Mechanism


By now, most of us would have heard that physical activities can relieve mental stress. The question then becomes, do we actually undertake physical activities when we’re stressed?


Our bodies are designed to move around and stay fit. An integrative physician once said "The human body is not supposed to sit all day long". He is absolutely right because sedentary lifestyles can lead to obesity as well as mental stress. Stress is the most common risk factor for various health complications such as heart disease, digestive impairment and many more! We need to learn how to deal with stress in order to promote our physical and mental health. It is important to pursue activities that promote cooperation between mind and body and will help achieve whole body health.

Blog Summary: In this blog, you will learn how exercise can reduce stress. You will also learn a few physical activities that are beneficial in managing stress.

Here are some basic activities that can help relieve stress:

1. Breathing Exercise;

2. Yoga;

3. Walking;

4. Dancing;

5. Gardening.


1. Breathing Exercise

Breathing exercises are popular among doctors, psychologists and other health professionals because of their tremendous effects on our bodies.


Here's how an exemplar deep breathing exercises works:

  1. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. You can lie on the bed or couch, or use the floor. Use a pillow under your knees and head;

  2. Slowly and gently breathe in through your nose;

  3. Let the belly fill in with air;

  4. Keep your breath in for a moment;

  5. Exhale slowly while thinking, "relax";

  6. Place your hand on your belly and feel it rise while you breathe in again;

  7. Repeat the entire process five to ten times, focusing on deep and slow respiration;

  8. You can also play background soothing music.


Do you think this is something you can do? A great thing about deep breathing is that you can do it anywhere. Learn the routine beforehand and use it when needed. Try repeating the exercise four to six times a week.

2. Yoga

Yes! Yoga can also reduce stress. Yoga postures are a form of stretching and strength training that make you flexible and resilient. It further helps relieve physical tension. Studies show that yoga decreases high blood pressure. You can use deep breathing during yoga to trigger the body's relaxation response. However you do it, yoga's most significant benefit is mental relaxation and stress reduction. It enhances focus, something which is key to stress or pain management.


How to do it?

Take any yoga classes that appeal to all age groups according to their fitness goals. You can join yoga classes in gyms, community centres or yoga studios.

You can also perform yoga at home. Search for “beginner yoga routines” on the internet and find a video that suits. Download it onto your computer and play it whenever you want to practice. You will memorize it within a week and you can then perform it without having to refer back to the video.

Note: Yoga that primarily focuses on stress reduction is Hatha. You can also go for other yoga forms such as Bikram, power, ashtanga, and vinyasa.


3. Walking

Walking is one of the most comfortable exercises that doesn't require any learning or special equipment. A regular walk can reduce many stress-related issues, including high blood pressure, headaches, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes and elevated cholesterol.

People with daily walking routines often show less stress and improved self-confidence due to taking an active role in their lives.


Some other benefits of walking include:

· It releases tension from muscles;

· It relaxes the nervous system;

· It deepens breathing;

· It helps in weight loss that can lead to a better health;

· It enhances mood;

· It reduces the risk of stroke and heart diseases;

· It improves balance and strengthens bones;

· It improves sleep;

· It supports joints.


How to do it:

· If you are just getting started, plan to do up to three 10-minutes walks per week;

· After three weeks, increase the duration and frequency of the walks;

· For stress management, it is recommended that you walk for 30 minutes each day.


4. Dancing

Did you know that dancing can also reduce stress? Dancing has many physical, emotional, and mental benefits. It's a fantastic exercise that improves agility because it raises your heart rate.

Studies show that people who practice dance twice a week are less likely to develop dementia, possibly because learning new moves stimulates the brain. Moreover, dancing fosters a connection and sense of involvement with other people, which reduces stress and boosts happiness.


How to do it?

Just like yoga, you can take a dance class and learn from a professional or group of enthusiasts. You can also benefit from internet resources and search for free online courses that will teach you dance at home. Either way, if you feel like this stress management technique is right for you, do not waste any more time and just do it!

Note: Older people can also practice easy dance steps and still benefit from reduced stress and feelings of “freshness”.


5. Gardening

Gardening is a low-impact stress-relieving workout, but it is useful. It has the stress-busting benefit of connecting you with the Earth. Connection with soil refreshes your spirit naturally. A study showed that gardening is more effective at reducing stress symptoms than reading a book. Another research showed that working in a garden for 30 minutes results in a better mood and increased self-esteem.

Some people consider plants as their kids. They give them water and wait for them to grow. This process is natural and can relax our mind as well as providing a sense of accomplishment. The aroma from flowers can also enhance mood and results in a low level of stress.


How to do it?

You can start with small steps. One or two herb plants growing on a sunny windowsill may be a good starting point to connect you to nature.

If you are more ambitious, start gardening more often and reap its excellent mental health benefits.


Bottom Line

Use one or a combination of the techniques mentioned above to manage your stress. Remember that your mental health is just as important as all the other aspects of your health. So do mind, body and soul a favour and take good care of yourself.


DK

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