SHAPING UP: Six ways exercise can help relieve stress and anxiety

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major effect on our lives and many of us are still facing challenges that cause us to feel anxious, stressed, worried, sad, bored and frustrated.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 12:00 am
Feeling stressed and not being able to sleep can be a vicious cycle. Lack of sleep can increase your stress and making it even harder to catch up on sleep the next night.
Feeling stressed and not being able to sleep can be a vicious cycle. Lack of sleep can increase your stress and making it even harder to catch up on sleep the next night.

These feelings aren’t new, but they have been more prominent over the last year.

So, it’s really important to do all we can to look after our mental health.

One of the best things we can do to help relieve stress and anxiety is exercise.

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Whether it be a 30-minute brisk walk, an hour cycling, or a 20-minute online workout it really helps to relieve stress and reduce anxiety. It’s great to get outdoors and take in some fresh air so you don’t feel so secluded from being inside.

Even getting outside just once a day is enough to take your mind off events and appreciate the nature and scenery that we have around us.

Here’s how exercise helps relieve stress, and how you can use it to your advantage:

Increased EndorphinsYou've probably heard the hype around endorphins. They are your body's natural pain killers and when released, they give you a noticeable "high".Long periods of moderate to high intensity exercise increase the release of endorphins, which is why you'll often feel a lift in your spirits after a workout, leaving you less likely to feel stressed.

Fight or FlightFight or flight is your natural, pre-programmed reaction to any stressful situation. The problem, however, is that much of today's stress doesn't require either physical fighting or running, but your body still provides the chemicals for it. This can leave you feel on edge and stressed out.The best and most logical way to relieve this feeling is to actually do some exercise. Sprint it out, lift weights or go for a long bike ride. It's how your body was meant to respond.

Rhythm and FlowSome exercise, like running, cycling or lifting, lets you get into a rhythm. That rhythmic flow of a repeating action relaxes your mind. It can help clear your head after a stressful day.

Human interactionFrom this week outdoor sports and fitness classes have re-started. So, why not meet up with a small group of friends and take part in a boot camp or other fitness class? Attending a class, or going on a group run not only helps get your daily exercise in, but also lets you interact with others who are probably experiencing the similar stress from life. This human interaction will help you release some of the negativity that is associated with stress and will make you feel less alone in your problems.

Better SleepFeeling stressed and not being able to sleep can be a vicious cycle. Lack of sleep can increase your stress and making it even harder to catch up on sleep the next night. Exercise not only helps break that cycle by better enabling you to handle stress in the first place, it also helps you feel tired at night so you can fall into a deep sleep without all the tossing and turning.

An Organised LifeStress can be brought on by a lack of organisation and planning, whether it's in your work life or home life. Following a workout plan, where you set regular, weekly goals and ultimately have a sense of achievement, will help you transfer those skills to other areas. And if your stress isn't caused by scheduling, just knowing that you have a stress-busting workout on your calendar a few times a week will help put your mind at ease.

Next time you're feeling stressed, don't reach for alcohol or comfort food, give exercise a try instead. It may just be what you need to unwind, relax and clear your head!

10-MINUTE DUMBBELL WORKOUT TO HELP MAINTAIN A GOOD POSTURE

If you spend a lot of time driving, sitting behind a desk or using technology (ipads/computers/phones) then you need to be mindful of your posture. Sitting in awkward positions, hunching over and looking down at screens can lead to discomfort or injury in your neck, shoulders and back.

So, if you spend a lot of time behind a desk, my advice is to do this quick dumbbell workout 2-3 times a week to help strengthen all of the key muscles in your back and core that will help maintain a good posture.

30 seconds DEADLIFTS

30 seconds BENT OVER ROW

30 seconds SUPERMANS

30 seconds PLANK ROW LEFT

30 seconds PLANK ROW RIGHT

X4

Tex Mex Tofu

SERVES: 4

TOTAL TIME: 40 minutes

CALORIES PER PORTION: 370

INGREDIENTS

2 large sweet potato, cut into small cubes

2 large courgette, cut into small cubes

2 red bell peppers, cut into small cubes

1 red onion, sliced

1 tbsp olive oil, divided

500g tofu, sliced

1 pack tex mex seasoning

For the dressing:

250ml Greek yoghurt

1/2 bunch coriander, leaves picked 2 tbsp lemon juice

1 clove garlic, minced

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6. Line 2-3 baking trays with baking paper. Lay the sweet potato on one and the courgette, bell pepper and onion on the others. Drizzle the trays with 2 tsp olive oil and season with salt & cracked pepper. Cook for 30-35 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, make the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together. Set aside.

Rub the tex mex into the tofu. Add the remaining olive oil to a large frying pan or grill plate, bring to medium-high heat and add tofu. Cook for 5-7 minutes each side.

Divide cooked vegetables on four plates, top with tofu and yoghurt dressing.