by Kelly Brown
With long commutes, busy lives and work emails just a notification away, it’s no wonder why people walk around in a state of chronic stress. And, chances are, nobody needs to tell you working out helps relieve it. We are all stressed, especially this time of year (hello post-holiday funk!). There are many techniques to fighting stress, but exercise just might be the most beneficial.
How does that work? Physical activity reduces cortisol levels (your body’s stress hormone). Breaking a sweat causes you to produce oh, so pleasing endorphins, which help your body and mind relax. This soothing hormone cocktail allows you to sleep better, think clearer and improves your mood. If your body feels better, so will your mind. Sounds good to us!
While any exercise will naturally produce sweat, we’ve picked the seven best workouts that connect your mind and body.
Yoga is popular for a reason: The mind-body practice brings together physical and mental disciplines to help you relax while increasing your physical strength and flexibility. Each pose in yoga takes a delicate strength and mental balance controlled by mindfulness and breathing. Yoga can help reduce stress while lowering your blood pressure and heart rate. Ending your practice with savasana helps you empty your mind and stay focused for the day.
This non-competitive martial art links flowing physical movements with breathing. Like yoga, there are many different styles and forms, making it ideal for just about anyone. Studies show that Tai Chi improves muscular strength, flexibility, immunity and can help relieve pain. Bonus is the peace and serenity you’ll feel after an hour long practice.
You don’t need a gym membership for this one — simply crank the tunes in your living room and let loose! Nothing makes you feel better than hearing your favorite music and letting your freak flag fly. Do The Hustle or Thriller or The Electric Slide—who cares! Dance is a great way to be creative and allows you to stretch your body in different ways than you would on a day-to-day basis. If you’re looking for more direction, try a Zumba class.
Fresh air is good for the soul, period. Even in the middle of winter, stepping outside and taking a big inhale to let air flow through your lungs is exhilarating. Grab your trail shoes and head to the woods for a walk/run combo.
This fitness system is designed to strengthen muscles and improve posture and flexibility. Surprise – it also heightens mental awareness. Pilates is known to help relieve both stress and anxiety.
It releases tension in the muscles while using breathing techniques to provide more oxygen to the brain. Increased oxygen causes a feeling of calmness and well-being.
This workout burns calories like crazy. Seeing your calorie count on your fitness watch skyrocket is satisfying. And, kickboxing helps maintain high metabolism. This blend of martial arts and boxing is a great workout. It reduces stress by teaching proper breathing techniques, building confidence and giving you an instant energy boost. Plus, these moves will help with your self-defense.
Yes, we’ll say it again: Going outside helps you relax! The beauty of the world around you helps melt away stress. Take a (fat) bike ride, go for a run, hike a new trail, snow shoe or cross country ski. There are plenty of ways to adventure the great outdoors and West Michigan is the best place to do it!