How Stress Affects Exercise & 5 Ways To Harness That Energy For Your Next Workout
You know when you have a kickass workout planned that you're actually, dare you say, excited for? Like, for once, you can't wait to hit the gym and sweat it out. But then, a busy day at work keeps you past your usual clock-out time, your BFF tells you she basically needs you to help her get her life together, and the only thing you have in the fridge to hold you over for dinner are stale sweet potato fries. Life has a way of stressing you out more often than not, which is why it's important to know how stress affects exercise so you can try to prevent it from getting in the way of taking care of your body.
According to Mayo Clinic, stress symptoms can affect your entire being, including not just your thoughts and feelings, but your behavior and your physical body, too. Moreover, a study published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology revealed that, even though exercise is commonly used to relieve stress, too much anxiety can definitely get in the way of squeezing in a sweat sesh.
While stress is essentially just a way of life for many of us, it can still do much more harm than you might think over time. From impairing concentration and focus, to slowing muscle recovery time, it can seem like stress and exercise are in a constant battle with one another.
But if you listen to your body and tune in to the kind of stress that's plaguing you, you might just be able to pick and choose the optimal exercises that feel best for you.
Here are five ways to harness your stress into your next sweat sesh and say adios to anxiety.
1. Yoga To Quiet The Chatter In Your Mind
Yoga is a mind-body exercise, and one of the most incredible ways to calm a perpetually racing mind. It's so much more than just a physical workout; yoga can help you focus on becoming more aware of your body, as well as help you learn to control your breath. Learning to breathe mindfully can be an amazing go-to strategy for when you can't seem to quiet the stressful chatter clouding your mind.
So, if it seems like your mind is constantly going in circles and you need some major self-care, try signing up for a fluid vinyasa flow with a focus on breathing techniques.
However, stress has also been shown to potentially increase injury risk, so be sure to check in with your body to see how you're feeling overall, and consider a gentle restorative class instead if you're worried you may be prone to pulling a muscle.
Whichever you opt for, the combination of mindful movement and meditation will be so effective when it comes to gathering focus, balance, and warding off stressful vibes.
2. Boxing For When You Feel Like You Need To Punch Something
You know the kind of stress where it literally feels like you need to punch something, or you'll 100 percent spontaneously combust into angry flames? Punching a boxing bag is definitely a better alternative to punching an innocent pillow, and certainly an unsuspecting, actual human being.
According to a study published in the Japan Journal of Physical Education, Health, and Sport Sciences, participants in a boxing class showed significant decreases in anxiety, depression, and anger after just a few minutes of punching their hearts out.
So, evaluate where your stress levels are at, and if you need to harness that anger in a really physical way, hit up your local boxing studio. You'll leave feeling zen, focused, and overall, like a badass — and stress-free — ninja warrior.
3. Running For Those Feel-Good Endorphins
When stress is getting to you, it might mean you're due for a nice, relieving runner's high.
According to WebMD, runner's high is so real, psychologically speaking. The release of feel-good endorphins can make you feel invincible, euphoric, and it can even cause you to lose yourself so much in movement that you actually forget what time it is.
Plus, since stress has been shown to slow muscle recovery time, achieving a runner's high on the reg might just help prevent that pain and discomfort.
4. Walking For A Greater Sense Of Calm
A lot of people tend to not count walking as a credible form of exercise, but it's actually one of the best ones out there, especially when it comes to busy schedules laced with stress.
According to Prevention, a nice, long walk can majorly improve self-esteem, stave off feelings of depression, and it can even have a similar calming effect to a mild tranquilizer.
That last one is somewhat concerning, yet weirdly comforting, I suppose.
5. HIIT For When You Want To Drown Your Stress In Sweat
Sometimes sweating it out is really all you need to clear your mind when you're super stressed out.
And, according to a study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia, high-intensity interval training can be even more effective for reducing stress than more "typical" anxiety-busting workouts like walking and yoga. This type of exercise exhausts all of your nervous and jittery energy, and pushes your limits to the absolute max — in the best way possible, of course.
When you're done, you'll feel pretty much unstoppable, and who knows, maybe you won't even be able to remember why you were stressed out in the first place.