Exercise is one of the best stress busters around. By choosing the right kind of workout, you can decrease cortisol, the stress hormone and increase endorphins, your body's feel-good chemicals. Try these top stress-busting workouts from our Fitness Expert, Libby Babet.
Despite these stress-crushing properties, when life is posing an extra big challenge, getting your daily dose of exercise can seem like the hardest thing in the world. Consistency is incredibly important when it comes to fitness, so the worst thing you can do is stop altogether - you need a plan to keep you on track!
The following six-week exercise program is designed to keep you calm, clear-headed and on track with your fitness goals by using the best stress-busting workouts around, in a way that’s scientifically proven to keep you smiling and clear your head, fast!
How It Works
Each week, on alternate days, you’ll complete an interval cardio session, a functional circuit workout and then a remedial/recovery session. The first three weeks will ease you into your new routine and make sure you set down some good quality movement patterns, then in the last three weeks, we’ll take it up a peg.
Functional Circuit Workouts to Get You Focused
When you’re stressed, the body releases hormones that inhibit the production of dopamine, a key neurotransmitter that helps us to concentrate, focus and feel pleasure. Strength training helps to boost dopamine levels and as a result, reduces stress and helps to clear your mind of clutter.
With the attached circuits, complete 12-15 repetitions of each exercise, with as little rest as possible in between. When you finish all four, rest for 60 seconds before repeating. You should complete 3-4 sets of the circuit all up before finishing. In Week One, start with a lower number of repetitions and build towards 15 in your final week (and remember, when doing lunges, one on each leg equals one total rep).
You’ll notice that all of the circuit sessions featured here only take around 16-20 minutes to complete. Don’t worry, this is all part of the plan! When you’re stressed out, the last thing you need is a trainer forcing hour-long workouts on you and every single move from these workouts uses multiple muscle groups to make sure you get max effect in the minimum amount of time. With these sessions, you should be in-and-out of the gym within half an hour or so, which is perfect because there’s no excuse not to get them done and remember, the aim here is consistency!
Make sure you always warm up well by going for a light jog or brisk walk, then complete some bodyweight movements that are similar to those you’ll be doing in your workout, such as hip raises, lunge walks, squats and prone rows or slower pushups.
Interval Cardio Workouts to Blow Off Steam
Interval training using sprints is a brilliant way to blow off steam and get the endorphins (happy hormones) circulating ASAP! Working your body in this way increases heart rate, blood flow and oxygen uptake, a chain of events that will zap any stress you’re feeling. Working your bod in this way also means you’re pushing your body to its limits without putting it under the amount of physical stress it would take to complete a distance run, so it’s great for letting go of the day’s frustrations but won’t suppress your immune system in the slightest. Double win!
Remedial Workouts to Help You Breathe
Forcing yourself to slow down, breathe and smell the roses is just as important (if not more so!) as working up a sweat. Practices like yoga and meditation teach you to form a strong connection between mind and body, turning your focus inward and helping you to confront and deal with the issues that are causing you to stress out in the first place. But if yoga’s not your thing, even taking a nice, long walk in the open air (with a friend, even better!), having a good stretch and focused breathing session before bedtime, or taking a swim in the ocean can work wonders on your wellbeing. If work’s the thing stressing you out, try taking a long walk in your lunch hour and notice how much better you feel throughout the afternoon. Choose two of the below remedial exercise options to complete each week.
• 30-40 minute walk
• Yoga class of your choice
• Take home stretch/yoga session (see our video for ideas)
• Long, slow jog
• Swim (or a surf!)
What You Might Not Know About Stress And Your Body
• To create a lean shape and flatten your tummy, you need a mix of both high intensity workouts and relaxing sessions that help quiet your mind and slow your body down. Why? Because when it comes to shedding the KGs, you need to make sure certain hormones, like Cortisol (the stress hormone) are kept in control. So it’s not about smashing yourself with tough sessions every day after all, phew!
• When you’re stressed out, being consistently active is the most important thing you can do for yourself. Aim for at least 30 minutes of gentle movement (walking, stretching, yoga), or purposeful exercise every single day.
• Sleeping well is just as important as exercise when it comes to losing weight. Without a good night’s rest, your body can’t create enough of the right hormones to help burn fat and keep you trim, so make sure you switch off the TV at a reasonable hour and hit the sack!
• Meditation is such an important thing for everyone to practice BUT don’t worry, you don’t have to join the monastery, or start setting aside an hour each day to work on your chanting skills. Try practicing a counting or walking meditation. To do a counting meditation simply sit still, close your eyes and slowly count out ten in/out breaths. If your mind goes into overdrive and you start thinking about other things, that’s OK, just acknowledge each thought and then bring your focus back to your breath/the counting again. You can practice a walking meditation absolutely anywhere - to get started, next time you’re walking between appointments, just focus on really experiencing everything around you. Feel the ground under your feet and the breeze on your skin, listen to the sounds around you, notice all the colours and tell yourself how grateful you are for this moment of solitude.