It's no secret that maintaining a workout routine of some kind can make you feel better in your mind, body, and spirit. And trust, as a busy person myself, I've definitely fallen into the mindset of assuming that, unless I'm getting up for a rigorous jog at 6 a.m. every single day, exercise is probably not going to have a huge impact on how I feel — but the thing is, that's not true in the slightest. In fact, figuring out how often you should exercise to reduce stress might not be as tall of an order as you think. According to the results of a new study, working out just a few times a week could be effective enough to relieve your stress.
In the study, which will soon be published in the scientific journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers from the University of British Columbia and the University of California showed, over the course of six months, that exercising at least three times a week significantly reduced stress for a volunteer group of people who identified as their family's caregivers, ScienceDaily reports. Even cooler? The results of the study appeared to suggest that this type of workout routine might also "slow cellular aging" — in other words, it may protect the body from developing serious health issues later in life, such as cardiovascular disease.
So here's how the study was done: According to ScienceDaily, the researchers recruited 68 volunteers, and again, all of them identified as caregivers for family members with conditions like Alzheimer's disease or dementia. The participants also identified themselves as generally "physically inactive," and they "reported feeling high levels of stress," as per ScienceDaily.
According to the research, the 68 volunteers were randomly divided into two groups at the beginning of the study. One group was told to exercise three to five times a week, at 40 minutes per workout, while the other group was told not to change anything about their regular level of physical activity.
After six months of sticking to these different routines, the researchers found that, of the 81 percent of exercising participants who stayed committed to the regimen, not only did they see physical health benefits, such as improved cardiorespiratory health, they also reported feeling significantly less stressed.
So, if you're really feeling stressed out yourself lately, know that you don't have to hit the gym every single day to find relief. In fact, according to personal trainer and cycling instructor, Kyra Williams, it's best to start small with a regular workout routine so you don't get overwhelmed. "Stress is going to impact your life whether you like it or not," she tells Elite Daily over email. "And you may even be doing yourself more harm than good with a strict workout schedule. Adding in time in nature, leisure walking, yin yoga, and lifting without cardio, can help, too."
If you're specifically looking for exercises that will reduce stress, Williams suggests you start by doing one or two outdoor walks each week for 30 to 60 minutes at a time, and maybe adding in some light weightlifting and stretching over time if it feels comfortable for you.
Another workout for stress relief? Yoga, my friend. Yoga teacher Hope Wills tells Elite Daily over email that she "absolutely believes and knows that slow, mindful yoga" is perfect for reducing stress. "I tell all the students in my classes that, when we change our breath, we change our brain," she says. "The slowing of breath and body send a message to the brain to take a break as well."
Through long, deep inhales and exhales that are paired with the body's movements, Wills explains, you can increase "awareness of self" and relax your body both mentally and physically.