Regular gym goers are typically working out for one of two reasons: either to improve their physical appearance or boost their fitness and health level. Another important thing that regular gym sessions can accomplish that shouldn’t be overlooked is decreased stress levels.
If you suffer from stress on a regular basis, this can lead to decreased energy levels, lower work performance and even chronic illnesses such as heart disease.
By incorporating some stress-killing exercises into your workouts on a regular basis, you can reduce the negative impacts it has on the body and progress faster since your recovery rate will be higher.
All of the following exercises will either cause an endorphin release in the body, which helps to eliminate stress, or put the mind in a more relaxed state, reducing the tension you feel.
1. Kickboxing or Boxing
Kickboxing classes are rapidly growing in popularity, and not only is this a great exercise to get in shape quickly, but it will only take minutes before the endorphin release kicks in. There are a variety of different styles including traditional kickboxing, jujitsu, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, kung fu, Judo, and Karate, so try a few classes to learn what you prefer.
This type of exercise will also be good for boosting your flexibility and quickness, so if these are fitness components you want to work on, it will be a perfect fit.
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2. High-Intensity Sprint Training
Sprint training is another way to get endorphins circulating throughout the body very quickly. As you couple very high-intensity paced running with a light-walk period, you’ll increase the heart rate, blood flow, oxygen uptake, and decrease any stress you might be feeling. Many individuals also find the higher-paced nature of this type of cardio great for blowing off anger as well. So if anger’s what's at the heart of your stress, this should be the form of exercise you choose.
For best results, your high-intensity sessions should be performed for 15 to 20 minutes with intervals lasting between 30 and 60 seconds. Try to schedule these either at another time in the day from your lifting sessions or on a day you aren’t lifting at all.
3. Deep Breathing
Yoga is the traditional stress-killing exercise, but if this is a form of exercise you’re not all that interested in, the simple act of practicing deep breathing on a regular basis can prove to be beneficial.
This will work best if you find someplace quiet to sit and concentrate on your lungs expanding upward and outward as they fill with air. By turning your focus inward you reduce the focus on whatever is stressing you, placing you in a much calmer state.
You should try to devote 10 minutes to deep breathing a few times a week to clear your mind. Also consider setting up some type of reminder at your desk to go off throughout the day so you take a few moments to take a few deep breaths and relax while you're at work as well. Often, stress will build up without you even realizing it and will cause tension-related headaches or back and neck pain.
4. Long-Distance Running
Opposing high-intensity sprints is long-distance running. This is used by many to kill stress since it allows you to get away and exercise out your thoughts as well as your body. Those training for marathons for example often say that this is the one thing they enjoy most about their long runs — it gives them a chance to think and clear their minds. The endorphin release with long-distance running typically does take longer to kick in, but when it does it will feel as though you’re on a natural high, almost euphoric-like.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you couple long-distance running with heavy weight-training, your weight performance may suffer, so be sure you weigh the pros and cons of the stress relief versus the performance decline.
5. Exercise You Enjoy
Finally, it should also be said that one of the best exercises for stress relief is the one that you enjoy the most. If you aren’t looking forward to your workout sessions each day you visit the gym, that’s going to cause even more stress in itself.
By selecting a workout program that you truly enjoy doing, you’ll feel natural stress-killing benefits and will also be more consistent.
Even if it’s just a recreational activity that you do once in a while such as golf, fishing or cross-country skiing, making the time in your schedule will release tension and go a long way toward helping you relax.
So start making stress relief one of the priorities of your workout. When you couple this with good eating and aim to only take on responsibilities you truly can handle, your health and overall sense of wellness will improve dramatically.