Exercise your way to a stress free mind!

If you don’t exercise regularly but want to use physical activity to manage stress, you’re not alone. With its overwhelming benefits—like the release of endorphins, a quieter mind, improved sleep and decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression—more people are turning to exercise to escape to a healthier place.

Unfortunately, we all know too well that starting a new habit takes time. With a career, family and other demands, how do we get an exercise routine to stick?

Ultimately, it is about us trusting, letting go and sticking with it. Reducing stress does not happen overnight. But with patience and consistency, it will be worth the effort.

Below are some activity ideas to get your mind percolating. Remember, it is the small steps in the right direction that will help you achieve your BIG vision.

Activity ideas for stress management

1. Walk with a friend or walking group for support and discussion.

2. Use walking meditation…just go for a stroll without a purpose or timeline. You can look at, touch and be with nature if you desire. The goal is to focus on the journey, not the end destination.

3. Try a yoga class or DVD. Yoga is the physical practice of preparing the body for meditation by stretching and building strength.

4. Practice Tai Chi, or Qigong. These practices—with roots in Eastern medicine—combine aligning breath, gentle movement and awareness to provide exercise, healing and meditation.

5. Register for an event like the Couch to 5K—that way you have to train for it!

6. Create and hold your own team or family activity day weekly and take turns planning it.

7. Try some of the following strategies to shake up your current cardio regime.

  • 10/10/10. Break up your workout by spending 10 minutes on a bike, 10 minutes on an elliptical and 10 minutes on a treadmill.
  • Try interval training. While listening to your favorite music, each time the chorus plays, increase your intensity. Then come back to a moderate level for recovery. Repeat for 4-6 songs (about 20-30 minutes).
  • Use the incline. Most treadmills have an incline of up to 15 percent. Try a steeper incline than usual and alternate between the incline and your normal state every 1-3 minutes for 20-30 minutes.
  • Add some weights. Grab some light hand weights (1-5 lbs.) and perform some overhead presses, biceps curls, tricep extensions and/or punches for one minute each exercise. Rest as needed between sets, and repeat as desired.

As always, check with your physician before starting any exercise program and work at your ability level. Best of all, enjoy your time spent and watch the stress melt away!

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