Four stress-reducing moves you can do anytime
Got a few minutes? Take a break from holiday hassles.
Quick quiz: You're ready to scream after the end of a hectic workday, but a
long list of holiday tasks still looms ahead. You fight traffic to get to the
shopping centre -- where someone grabs the last parking space. You need stress
relief and you need it NOW. What's your best option?
A. Gobble up the box of chocolates you've been saving for just such
B. Go home and melt into a hot bath.
C. Head to the spa for a pampering massage.
D. Go to the gym and work out 20 minutes on the treadmill.
The answer: D. We don't recommend such intensive chocolate therapy. Plus,
while massages and long soaks in the tub may feel great, exercise is the best
de-stressor over the long term, experts say.
Along with the well-known physical benefits, exercise has been shown to
"increase one's sense of well-being, mood state, self-esteem, stress
responsivity (and) body image, as well as decreased depression and anxiety",
says Jesse Pittsley, a spokesperson for the American Society for Exercise
Just what is it about exercise that makes a person feel good (other than
being toned)? What are the best moves to do when you're feeling stressed,
especially when time is precious? Three experts provide some answers.
The stress response
"The human body has evolved over the centuries. While we were designed to
use our large muscles in difficult environments - hunting, defending ourselves
against enemies, enduring the harshness of weather, the problem is we don't
live that way any more", says C Eugene Walker, a professor of psychology at the
University of Oklahoma in the US. "We are very sedentary, and our problems are
more mental and social rather than physical".
So when we encounter stressful situations, the result is pent-up physical
reactions, says Walker, author of Learn to Relax: Proven Techniques for
Reducing Stress, Tension and Anxiety - and Promoting Peak Performance.
"It's like driving a Ferrari in a 20 miles per hour speed limit", says
Walker. "When (we are) presented with a stressful situation, adrenaline is
released into the bloodstream, our muscles get tense as we prepare to react,
blood pressure is increased and breathing becomes shallow and rapid".
"Essentially, we are stressed mentally, which doesn't require a physical
response. We are stepping on the petrol and the brake at the same time,
producing fatigue, tension, stress and over time, chronic diseases like heart
The solution: regular exercise.
"Basically, when we exercise we get back to what our bodies were designed to
do", says Walker. "We increase our heart rate, take in more oxygen, our blood
circulates better and faster".
Relieve stress with cardio
Exercise can mean anything from vacuuming to running marathons, but which
kind is best for reducing stress?