The 8 Best Exercises to Relieve Stress, According to Fitness Pros

of job exhaustion, high gas prices, inflation and the general news cycle, there are many things that can stress you out. It is important to control stress, and exercise to be able to help.

Weather yoga usually tops the list of stress-relieving exercises is not the only option to help you find your zen. Actually, any type of exercise can help you feel better. The options below aren’t necessarily “relaxing” workouts, but they’ll still leave you drenched in sweat and feeling better than when you started.

Some experts say that intense workouts, such as high-intensity interval training, can help you build mental strength, allowing you to deal with stress and other challenges. Just ask Chris Stockel, founder of the Mind Body Project, a gym in New York that combines HIIT and meditation in one 50-minute class. Stockel found HIIT helpful during a personal battle with stress and anxiety. “It’s such a physical challenge that it actually forces my brain to stop overthinking and stay focused on the task at hand. It makes me feel fully present,” Stockel said.

Read on below to find out how HIIT and exercises other than yoga can help you reduce stress and feel calmer.

Exercises that can help reduce stress

HIIT

The thing about HIIT workouts is that they are intense but fast, which makes them ideal for fitting into tight schedules. The other benefit when it comes to stress is that doing an intense workout for a short period of time requires a lot of focus, which keeps you from thinking about what’s stressing you out, as Stockel noted above.

“The way you move keeps your mind sharp, which combats stress,” says Bryna Carracino, fitness trainer and founder of Rehab NYC.

For stress management, Carracino likes workouts that focus on conditioning the body rather than ones that require counting reps, like timed HIIT intervals. “So the mind can really focus on the moment. Using functional equipment like kettlebells, dumbbells, TRX straps puts the body in a more proprioceptive environment,” explains Carracino. Proprioception is the ability to sense the position and movements of your own body. “The longer the body lives there, the more cognitive health is improved,” says Carracino.

strength training

A 2020 study found that strength training on a regular basis had a positive impact on anxiety levels and symptoms of worry in young adults. There is plenty of evidence to show that exercise in general makes you happier and may support better mental health, but this study looked specifically at strength training, which tells us even more about how different types of exercise can affect your mind.

“Any form of physically strenuous exercise releases endorphins, which are chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain,” says Stockel. “More specific to strength training, a weighted bodyweight and/or strength program has been shown to increase self-confidence, improve mood, help you relax, and improve your sleep,” says Stockel.

Bottom line: Science says exercise can help reduce stress and improve your mood. What is considered fun or relaxing can vary from person to person, so add elements of fun or zen to any workout, depending on what works for you. For example, maybe a dance class is fun for one person, but anxiety-provoking for another.

TRX straps are suspension training tools that you can use at home or in a gym for strength training.

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Try this HIIT and strength workout for stress at home

Carracino designed the HIIT and strength training below to help you de-stress and get in a great workout.

“For this HIIT workout you’ll need a fitness/yoga mat, a set of light and medium dumbbells,” says Carracino. You can also use a TRX strap if you have one, but if not, just skip the TRX move and do regular push-ups.

Do the following exercises for 1 minute each (set a timer to help keep track). For 50 seconds of each exercise you work, followed by 10 seconds of rest to reset. Between each set (one or two sets for beginners, three or four sets for advanced), take a 30-second recovery break. To level up your training, try increasing your weight when you hit three or four of the exercises.

Dead bugs with dumbbells: Lie on your back. Hold a dumbbell in each hand. Arms are straight across chest with dumbbells facing each other. The legs should be at a 90-degree angle, with the feet flexed. This is your starting position. Extend your left leg forward and your right arm back over your head at the same time. Return to the starting position. Alternate to the other side. Repeat.


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Beast: Maintain table position: wrists, elbows, shoulders aligned. Stacked knees and hips. This is the starting position. Lift your knees off the ground. Slightly press your knees out and hold for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat.

TRX push-ups: Place your hands on the top cradle. The arms are straight. This is the starting position. Lower your body until your arms are at a 45-degree angle. Keeping your elbows in line with your rib cage. Engage your chest and push your arms back to the starting position. Repeat.

No TRX? Without worries. Do the same position as the TRX strap but place your hands on the edge of a couch, bench, or chair. Make sure they are pressed against a secure surface like the wall.

Rogue ranks: Come to push-up position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Keep your feet as wide as your mat. This is the starting position. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and row on the right side, tucking your right elbow into your back pocket. Return your arm to the starting position. And switch to the row on the left side. Return to the starting position. Repeat.

Skier swings: Start to stand up. Hold light dumbbells at your side in a hammer grip position. Hinge through the hip and push your booty back. Extend your arms behind you, keeping them parallel to the sides of your body. Drive the dumbbells forward by pushing your hips forward. Push the weight up to shoulder level. Participate loot. Repeat.

Side lunge with dumbbell front raise: Start by standing with your feet together and a light dumbbell at your left side. This is the starting position. The right leg is thrown laterally to the right. While in the lunge, raise your left arm straight out in front of you, palm facing up. Return to the starting position. Stay with the same side for 25 seconds. Then switch to the other side.

Belching: Start lying on your chest with your hands resting below your shoulders. Flat palms. Keep all 10 toes pressed into the ground. This is the initial position. Press into push-up position. Jump into a squat position (feet are on the outside of your hands). Jump squat. Return your feet to the push position. Lower yourself to the starting position. Repeat.

Forearm Plank: Start in a pushup position and lower onto your forearms, shoulders stacked over your elbows. Keep your largest muscle groups engaged: your back, chest, glutes, and quads. As soon as you feel a loss of engagement in any of those muscle groups, lower your knees to the ground. Restart. Go back up to a plank hold.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or health goals.

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