Exercise to Relax: How Can a Gym Workout Help to Reduce Stress?
Maybe you spent it at the office, trying to keep up with a barrage of phone messages and emails. Or perhaps you were at home, putting out fires between your kids. Or maybe your day consisted of a combination of stressful challenges. No matter what kind of stressful day you had, you may be tempted to decompress by zoning out on the couch. But really, the best thing to do is to strap on a pair of sneakers and get moving.
Stress is something many of us women grapple with. According to a survey done by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, seven out of 10 adults in the U.S. say they experience stress or anxiety on a daily basis, and most of them say it interferes with their lives. So, we must learn to deal with stress in a healthy way.1
Symptoms of stress can be mental or physical and include excessive worry, restlessness, trouble sleeping, anger, tense muscles, headaches, neck pain, back pain, clenched jaw muscles, indigestion, and diarrhea.2
Science has proven, one of the best ways to combat mental stress and these symptoms that go along with it is with physical stress—the good kind of physical stress, in the form of a cardio workout. In fact, not only is exercise a great form of natural stress relief, a good gym workout like the Curves circuit will do lots of other good things for your body, including helping you to lose weight.2
The next time you’re tempted to skip a gym workout at the end of a stressful day, remember the following:
A gym workout provides natural stress relief.
On a chemical level, exercise reduces levels of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. It also stimulates the body to release feel-good hormones called endorphins, which naturally reduce pain, elevate mood, and make you feel more relaxed.2 You may have heard the term ‘runner’s high,’ which refers to the endorphins we release during exercise. But you don’t have to be a runner to reap these benefits—walking, biking, and a gym workout for women like the Curves circuit will all produce the same effects.3
Exercise reduces stress by boosting your self-esteem.
As you see your strength training and cardio workouts paying off, with increased strength and stamina and a smaller waistline, you’ll feel better about yourself. And as you feel prouder, more self-confident, and more in control, you’ll feel more capable of tackling tasks that may have previously caused undue stress.2
A gym workout provides stress relief by distracting your mind.
Whether you choose to engage in a gym workout for women at Curves or perform stress relief exercises like meditation or a long walk in the woods, you’ll relieve stress. When you occupy your body with physical activity, you distract your mind from the worries of daily life and open it to more creative, free thinking.2
Exercise helps you sleep.
Sleep is often disrupted by stress. We toss and turn, worrying about the stressors in our lives. Then the next day, we’re exhausted and less able to tackle stressors that come up. Yet another way exercise helps with stress relief is by helping you to sleep better at night.3
Exercise for stress relief works best when you’re having fun.
The stress relieving powers of exercise will work best if you choose an activity you love. Be it hiking, biking, or a supportive gym workout for women, engage in something you enjoy, and you’ll maximize stress relief.3
Deep breathing is a great stress relief exercise.
Outside of your gym workout, there are stress relief exercises you can try wherever you are. One of the best exercises for stress relief is deep breathing. When you’re stressed, your breathing tends to become shallow and erratic. When you’re relaxed, on the other hand, you breathe slowly, deeply, and in a regular pattern. During periods of acute stress—or when you feel stress approaching–you can control your breathing to mimic a more relaxed state. Here’s how:
- Breathe in slowly and deeply and push your stomach outward
- Hold your breath for a few seconds
- Exhale slowly, as you tell yourself to relax
- Repeat the sequence five to 10 times in a row, concentrating on breathing slowly and deeply.2
Recognize that regular exercise and stress relief go hand in hand.
For maximum stress relief, try to do a cardio workout, other gym workout, or some form of physical activity every day. This doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym hard—on days you can’t get to Curves, a brisk 20-30- minute walk will do the trick. On days when you are particularly busy, you can break the activity into 10 to 15-minute chunks. Add strength training and stretching two to three times a week, and you’ll have a balanced exercise program to help with ongoing stress relief.2