Almost any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. Being active can not only help you maintain a healthy weight, but also boost your endorphins, or “feel-good” hormones, and help you to balance all the demands of an exhausting work schedule and busy family life. Learn how to create an exercise routine to lower stress with 7 simple steps.
Create an Exercise Routine to Lower Stress
You know that being physically active is a healthy habit, but tackling your health goals can feel confusing and overwhelming. If you’re like most you are constantly resolving to adopt healthier habits like eating healthier, losing weight, or getting more sleep every night. And you’ve probably even thought about creating a fitness plan and reducing your stress levels.
As you work every day to take care of your family and give your best in all areas of life, you may sometimes feel like there’s just not enough time to take care of your own health and needs. And you may simply not know where to start. But the great news is that being healthy doesn’t have to be this complicated. What if you could combine your fitness plan and stress management plan, rather than thinking of them as two separate parts of your life?
When you create an exercise plan to lower stress, you are actively working to build a healthier lifestyle in multiple areas.
Exercise and Stress Relief
Exercise is a way to maintain physical health, but it also carries a ton of stress-relieving benefits. When you work out you are improving your physical health and your general sense of well-being. Here are a few ways exercise acts as a stress-reliever.
Boosts endorphin production
When you workout, your body produces endorphins which are the “feel good” neurotransmitters associated with the Runner’s High. But you don’t have to be a runner to get “in the zone.” Even a brisk walk or dance session can bring on these stress relief benefits.
Encourages social interaction
Exercise provides a good opportunity to socialize, and socializing is great for stress relief. Generally when you exercise outdoors, in your community, or at a gym, you are inevitably going to to interact with others like you who are looking for ways to get healthy and lower stress. Activities like group fitness classes, tennis lessons, or even working out at a gym are excellent options. Also, partnering with a workout buddy can be a good way to socialize while reaping the benefits of an active lifestyle and lowering stress.
Enhances your mood
The physical benefits of exercise – increased endurance, losing weight, toning up – can translate into emotional benefits, too. A regular exercise routine can help lower tension, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and increase perception of self-control. These are all linked to lowering stress.
Getting Started With Exercise
Starting an exercise routine to lower stress can be as easy as making a few small changes. To get the benefits of lowering stress while you work out, you will want to exercise on a consistent basis. Talk with your primary care doctor if you are starting an exercise program, if you have any health concerns or before making any changes to your routine.
Getting started with exercise is usually easy, but sticking with an exercise routine is where most people struggle.
Guidelines for a Good Exercise Routine
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, some physical activity is better than none. But it is recommended that adults do at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of those.
For added health benefits, adults should increase their aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes a week of moderate intensity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of the two. ODPHP also says that adults can gain even more health benefits by doing moderate or high muscle-strengthening activities of all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week. That sounds like a lot when you’re a beginner, doesn’t it?
That’s why I’ve also included some recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control. Their standards, which are taken from the National Diabetes Prevention Program, suggest that adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every week. This breaks down to exercising for 30 minutes, 5 days a week.
This may sound like a lot when you’re accustomed to being sedentary, but the first step would be to start incorporating some physical activity into your lifestyle and make it sustainable. Let’s see how this can be done.
Making Exercise a Priority
There are many forms of exercise that help relieve stress. Adopting an active lifestyle can help to take your mind off of everyday worries and put more pep in your step.
You know that exercise is good for a healthy lifestyle, but you still find it hard to fit it into your busy day. But fitting in exercise doesn’t have to disrupt your entire schedule or take you away from your family, work, or other personal commitments.
There are many ways to get exercise into your day. This could be strength training, yoga, or aerobics. Regardless of your fitness level, you can tap into even short bursts of exercise to help reduce stress during even the busiest of days.
7 Things to Keep in Your Home or Office for Regular Exercise
7 Tips for Creating a Sustainable Exercise Routine
Here are a few tips to ensure that your new exercise routine is one that you can stick with for the long term.
1. Check with your doctor before you begin.
If you have been sedentary or haven’t exercised for a while, you may want to see your doctor before you begin a new exercise routine.
2. Start off slow.
As you create an exercise routine to lower stress, remember that the overall goal is to get fit and lower stress. So as you begin your exercise routine, go at a pace that feels right to you. While the standards mentioned above are recommendations, you don’t have to start there. As you begin to create an exercise plan to lower stress, you’ll want to start by slowly adding exercise to your schedule.
If exercising is new to you – or if you haven’t exercised in a while – you’ll want to start slowly at first and build up gradually. Set realistic goals based on your fitness level. Doing this will help your body acclimate to a workout program and help prevent you from getting injured.
3. Make it fun.
There are so many forms of exercise to choose from. Start with activities that you enjoy, can do consistently, and will look forward to. This may include walking, jogging, bicycling, gardening, swimming, walking, stair climbing, playing tennis and many others.
4. Make an appointment.
If you have a tendency to put yourself on the back burner for other priorities, make sure to set an appointment with yourself to exercise. Do whatever it takes to ensure you don’t miss your workout. This is especially important if you spend most of your day at work sitting. Create an appointment in your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, post a sticky note on your refrigerator or computer monitor, or tie a string around your finger. Don’t miss your appointment to exercise.
5. Make a SMART exercise plan.
Setting clear goals is an important part of creating your exercise plan to lower stress. Just saying, “I’m going to work out next week” is not enough. If you truly want to make exercise a part of your stress relief plan, you’ll need to set clear goals for your new exercise routine. Making a SMART goal for your exercise and stress relief plan means your goal contains the following elements. It is:
Specific – you will indicate the exact behavior you will engage in.
Measurable – your goal will have a specific schedule and time-frame for when it will be performed.
Attainable – the goal is something you can achieve. It pushes you, but it’s not outside of your reach.
Relevant – the goal ties in with your overall plan.
Time-limited – the goal has a date by which you want to reach it.
Here’s an example of how to create an exercise routine to lower stress = using the SMART goal-setting format. Let’s say that I want to get more physically active to lower my risk of type 2 diabetes. My goal might be something like this: “I will go for a brisk walk after work at the park, five days a week Mondays to Fridays, for 30 minutes starting today for the next 30 days. This goal meets all of the elements of being smart. Let’s take a look.
- Specific – I have indicated the type of behavior and the intensity of the behavior. I also indicated which days of the week and where I will perform the behavior.
- Measurable – I have stated for how long I will walk each time I go to the park.
- Attainable – I can realistically go to the park 5 days a week and walk for 30 minutes each time.
- Relevant – This behavior relates to my goal to get more physically active to lower stress.
- Time-limited – I am starting today and I will do this for the next 30 days.
6. Exercise with a friend.
Accountability will help you to remain consistent when you create an exercise routine to lower stress. Having a partner is a great way to remain accountable to sticking with your routine. Working out with a friend or co-worker can make you more likely to meet your goals.
7. Re-evaluate your routine.
Evaluate your workout routine every now and then to see if it is still working for you. As we age, we need to keep a finger on the pulse of our fitness level and find activities that are still challenging, enjoyable and effective. Also, changes in other areas of life such as work or home may necessitate changes to your exercise routine. Keeping your exercise routine in alignment with other areas of your life will also help decrease stress.
Create an Exercise Routine to Lower Stress: What’s Next
This article is part of the Women’s Wellness Series. It’s for women like you who are tired of filtering through mounds of confusing or conflicting information about how to get healthy – and just want the simple action steps to start getting healthier and feeling better now.
Each month we will drill down into one specific topic, focusing on the simple actions steps to conquer that area. Whether your goal is to reduce stress, find a better balance between work and home, or develop healthier eating habits – we’ve got you covered.
You can start this year-long series at any time so sign up to be notified of new posts every month.
Alicia Hyatte is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Family Wellness Advocate, Health Educator, and a Diabetes Prevention Lifestyle Coach. She helps parents to build healthier habits and routines to better balance home and work life. Her website, WholeFamilyLiving.com, provides motivation and simple strategies for handling everyday challenges like managing stress, being active, eating healthier, losing weight, and more. Alicia is a beach lover and gardening geek in her spare time.