Stress-busters 2018: Finding Your Favorite Exercise Made easy

Running man

Don't like to Exercise? This is for you.

There is endless research that shows how effective exercise is at reducing stress along with a myriad of health benefits for your entire body. Exercise can also distract you from the "mind games" that are behind mental stress, such as worrying about money, relationships, your job, etc., as well as fear of the unknown or feeling overwhelmed by everything you need to get done.

Here's the dilemma: many of us don't like to exercise, or to be beholden to a physical regimen or workout simply to alleviate the adverse effects of stress on the body and nervous system.

In this StressBusters 2018 article, we want to help you find the perfect exercise or activity that doesn't feel like work. That you enjoy and look forward to. Why? Because the benefits of any exercise far outweigh the costs of not exercising. 

city jogger stretching

Here's the good news

Any kind of movement will benefit the body. It doesn't necessarily need to be in the form of a "traditional" exercise, such as following a workout routine at the gym, attending an aerobics class, riding your bike 30 miles or running five miles on a daily schedule you follow religiously.

Any exercise or deliberate movement can act as a stress reliever. When the body moves, the body releases endorphins. These chemicals interact with receptors in the brain, and cause a "good feeling" and lower awareness of pain. Therefore, the more movement, the more endorphins, the better you feel.

It's virtually impossible to eliminate stress, but it is possible to manage it. Exercise, or any body movement for that matter, is one of the easiest, fastest ways to manage the effects of stress and provide added benefit to your entire body.

Hiker

Problems with Exercise Routines

Most of us are aware that exercise is good for us, but again, many of us choose not to exercise. The reasons run the gamut, from not having enough time to dedicate to a regular exercise routine or working out at the gym to simply not having the desire to do so.

We turn the calendar to January and suddenly we're filled with the urge to join a gym or go on a diet to lose that holiday weight. Or, we just want to turn a new leaf and feel better. Or, we had a parent or sibling get a sobering health diagnosis that made us want to take better care of ourselves.

But what invariably happens is we intend to stick to a program, but we end up getting distracted and slip into old habits out of convenience or the mere fact that we just don't like exercise.

It happens. So what do you do? First of all, give yourself a break. It's okay if you're not into exercise in a structured way. It doesn't have to be like going to gym class in grade school, where you were made to do all sorts of exercises or sports you didn't like. Give yourself permission to move your body in a way that works for you. That way, you'll be more apt to stick to it and enjoy it.

Shift Your Perspective on Exercise

The next step is to shift your perspective about exercise. When we think "exercise," many of us think of the stereotypical regimen of some rigorous physical activity or sport that we have to commit to doing regularly, rain or shine. That doesn't sound like fun.

However, when you break down what exercise is, it's when you move your body so that it elevates your heart rate, increases lung capacity, strengthens muscles, loosens and lubricates ligaments, joints and tendons and expands the torso so your organs get better blood flow. This increases circulation, oxygenation of the blood and tissues, and stimulates muscle growth. The body is happy because it is designed to move.

So instead of labeling it "exercise," which may have a variety of stigmas attached to it in your mind, just refer to it as "movement." That simple change in language will open up entirely new possibilities for appreciating the stress-relieving benefits of moving your body. It will also allow you to include other types of physical movement as beneficial for reducing stress.

Let's get creative

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking differently about movement so you can realize that maybe you are getting benefit from exercise, just in different ways.

marathoners

Charities

Many local charitable organizations have fundraising events that involve an outdoor activity, such as a walk or run for a cure. You can not only get in some movement, but you can also raise money for a worthy cause.

Another example of a charitable activity that has a great deal of movement but not in a "walk" or "run" way is food banks. Many food banks receive donations at their warehouses, and those boxes of dry goods and food needs to be sorted, moved and stacked  on shelves. They also are sometimes called into a food manufacturer convention or show after the event has concluded to collect the food samples left by the manufacturers as a donation to the local food bank. That food needs to be packed up in boxes and loaded onto trucks for distribution through the food bank's stores.

Libraries also have volunteers who can help with sorting and stacking books, filing donated books and other physical activity. 

Just because it isn't a "structured" exercise does not mean your body isn't getting a good workout. Plus, you're helping great causes and organizations in the process.

Do more at home

There are endless movement opportunities at home. What about cleaning the house? Not only do you get lots of great movement from cleaning, you get a clean house too! How about cooking a meal instead of eating out? Not only will you likely consume less calories, the movement around the kitchen, chopping food, mixing, moving about will burn calories and you'll get to enjoy a meal you prepared. It's also a great stress reliever.

What about yard work? Hate it? Yup. So assign the chores you hate like cutting the grass or trimming trees to a contractor, but still do the yard work you like. Plant flowers. Hang lanterns over your back patio. Start an herb garden. Hang potted plants from your front porch. Just because you "hate" yard work doesn't mean you should ban yourself from your yard. Get out there and have some fun, even if it's playing a game of horseshoes or corn hole on the lawn with the kids.

Bicycle commuter

Join the right gym

There's always the option of joining a gym and going the traditional exercise route to bust that stress. However, when you're shopping for the right gym, keep these things in mind:

  • Budget your gym expenses from monthly membership to the gear you'll need. There'll be added expenses for shoes, clothes or athletic equipment such as a racquetball racquet, goggles and gloves. Make sure it's something that you can sustain over time. The easiest excuse to quit a gym membership is the cost, second is not enough time. There are also pay-as-you-go gyms that may also fit your wallet and lifestyle better, such as if you have a job that requires a lot of travel.
  • Make it a priority so you will make time for it. Find a way to incorporate it into your routine so it becomes routine. This will also help you stick to it. After about one to two months, your new routine should be in place and natural.
  • Find a gym that offers the type of movement and physical activity that you want to do. For example, if you are into strength training and want to build muscle, find a gym that has trainers and free weights as part of the membership. If you're more of a social person who likes to work out with others, find a gym that has a variety of classes you can take, whether it's yoga, cross training, step, spin, water aerobics—a good gym or local YMCA will have a variety of classes you can enjoy. 
  • Make friends! Get or find buddies who will work out with you. You can meet a lot of great people who need just as much inspiration to work out as you do, and make new friends as well.
Hiking couple

Explore nature

Whether you're on a trip with your family and have a chance to get out of the car and go for a hike, or you just love to walk around your neighborhood, being out in nature while moving your body is one of the best ways to beat stress.

So many of us are cooped up in offices and cars all day long and just getting out into the fresh air and sunshine will work wonders on our personal outlook as well as our stress levels. 

Consider commuting to work or to run light chores using your bike or walking. Even taking public transportation can alleviate the stress associated with trying to navigate clogged highways and aggressive drivers.

woman spinning

Dance!

If you love music, dance can be a fabulous way to move your body and enjoy your friends and dance pals. Whether you hit the clubs in the evenings, go to a waterside restaurant with live music or hit up the local dance studio for lessons, dancing is a full-body activity that takes coordination as well as strength.

The benefits of dancing are multi-dimensional, given it's often associated with social interactions with friends or our partners. Or, you can just simply take a "dance break" at your desk, turn on your favorite song and take a five-minute break and bop around your office. You may get some funny looks from coworkers, or you could inspire them to dance right along with you.

Skiiers

Relax and just enjoy your body movement

As you can see, relieving stress through movement is a lot easier than you may have realized. And more than likely, you're moving your body a lot more than you realize, especially if you invest in technology that measures steps or movement like a FitBit or iWatch. Focus on the things you enjoy doing and go do them! Make a list of activities that utilize all aspects of your body, whether it's reorganizing your attic or washing your ca and do them more deliberately.

Make whatever you do something you enjoy, something that's unique and particular to you and what you like. Forcing exercise on yourself will backfire and you'll likely quit early without achieving any benefit at all.

When you have a lighter attitude about exercise and appreciate the flexibility, stamina and everything your body does for you, it will be much easier to find and stick to your favorite movement. You'll look better, sleep better, feel better, and above all, manage the adverse affects of stress much more easily.