Exercises to Relieve Stress

This post is a guest post from our dynamo fitness expert Oonagh Duncan. and she’s bringing us some exercises to relieve stress, and talking about the many benefits of exercise when we’re stressed out. There’s a video link at the end, but be patient because the audio is rough until about half way through.

exercises to relieve stress

Every now and then a client will go AWOL. They stop coming to Bootcamp, they keep cancelling their Personal Training sessions. When I check in I will often hear “I just can’t. Life is too crazy right now. It’s super stressful”. And I get it. I really do. I know that when the shit hits the fan, the last thing you feel like doing is a workout. But here is why I want to go and kidnap those stressed out clients and piggyback them to the gym:

A solid workout will re-direct that frenetic energy in a health positive way so you don’t end up stress fighting with your family or stress drinking or stress eating an entire Deep and Delicious while crying at 3am. Don’t get yourself in this cycle:

Cycle

The workout will distract your brain and give you a break from cyclical, negative or unproductive thoughts. This works best if you choose something that challenges you physically and mentally (like learning dance choreography or a boxing combo or a new sport)

The workout will flood your brain with endorphins, which will make you feel calmer and happier.

If you stay consistent with your exercise, it’s one less thing to feel stressed about.

So what kind of exercise should you do?

What are the best ways to physically combat stress?

1. Site specific tension release.
We all have areas where we physically clench when we are stressed. Common ones are the jaw, the temple, the upper trapezius (neck/shoulder) and the hips. Figure out where yours are and when you feel the stress rising, give those areas a little bit of love with a massage or a stretch.

2. Add some breath
When you coordinate breath to the movement, you connecting to your parasympathetic nervous system (the part of your brain that allows you to chill). When we think of breath-connected movement, we always think of yoga but you can use it during your resistance training (exhale on the concentric movement, inhale on the release) or even during a walk (breath in for 4 steps, breath out for 4 steps)

3. Shake it off
I actually do want you to put on the Taylor Swift song Shake It Off and freak out for 1 min. But if you can’t deal with teen pop, do any kind of intense cardio for 1 min. When you are done, the rush of oxygenated blood and endorphins will make you feel like a human again.

4. Fake it until you make it.
I love this so much that I actually wrote a paper about it during my M.A. There is a ton of evidence to show that we can influence our emotional state by re-arranging our body physically. You might have heard of all the studies in the 1970’s and 1980’s about the act of smiling inducing feelings of happiness. Try it now: roll your shoulders back and puff out your chest and feel a little surge of confidence. Try softening the space between your eyes and notice if you feel a little less stressed. You can’t Shake it Off on the commute home but you can always smile.

If you want a few specific exercises to apply to your stress, check out this segment I did on the Steven and Chris show. It’s basically a video version of this post.

A few thoughts on this segment:

I know the sound is a bit messed up at the beginning. Hang in there – it fixes itself.

The producer wanted me to stuff a whole bunch of information into this segment so if it looks like I’m interrupting them all the time, that’s why.

Every time I watch this, I have serious outfit regret, which is weird because SKIN TIGHT LIME GREEN ACID WASH LYCRA USUALLY LOOKS SO GOOD ON EVERYONE.

I am, however, pretty proud of the way I catch my mic when it falls off and keep doing high knees. Despite technical glitches, FITNESS MUST GO ON.

Let me know what you think in the comments below and what you do to beat the stress demons! And don’t forget to grab your copy of my free Start Here Guide immediately!! Click here. 

Oonagh Duncan
Oonagh DuncanFitness Expert
Oonagh Duncan has been awarded the canfitpro Pro Trainer of the Year award for the last two years and serves as a Fitness Expert for various media, including the Steven and Chris show and the Toronto Star. She is an acclaimed health and wellness speaker and offers online training programs and tons of free fitness advice on her blog at www.oonaghduncan.com. She also has an MA in Acting and is a published and internationally-produced playwright. When she’s not training, she’s having living room dance parties with her sons Felix and Otis.
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