All forms of exercise can clear your mind, release endorphins (the “happy” hormone), and make you feel more relaxed by shuffling the day’s stresses to the bottom of your important list. But certain exercises — and yoga is way up there on the list — are pretty much synonymous with “peaceful.”
Yoga is great. But if you need a break from Warrior 2 or just want to mix up your routine with other types of exercise that can provide a laid-back feeling, improve your mood, and even help you sleep better, here are four exercises you should try this week for a more peaceful mind — and they aren’t yoga.
Contrary to what some believe, boxing is not just a workout that sculpts your upper body — it tests your endurance, strength, stamina, and (after you've practiced your moves a few times) gives you entire body an incredible workout. Boxing strengthens your core, which includes your back and abs, and if you add a kickboxing element, puts your legs through the ringer.
But there's more — boxing is also a great way to relieve stress. You're literally punching a bag and taking out your frustrations and anxieties with every punch and kick.
"I'd say the number-one thing that sets boxing apart from other workouts is the degree of stress relief," Arnold Gonzalez, USA Boxer and a trainer at EverybodyFights, told Shape.com. "It's unlike any other workout."
Pilates is a low to medium-impact workout that is gentle enough for anyone who has back or joint pain. It involves working on different muscle groups and then stretching muscles to avoid injury. And, because you're focusing on your breath, it's also outstanding for relaxation — and may even be on par with meditation.
"Pilates lets you reap all the benefits of meditation without actually sitting still and feeling like you are wasting your time," according to Pilates Bridge. "You can gain mindfulness benefits only if you are comfortable with what you are doing. Some enjoy the peacefulness of a traditional meditation while others get better results from a mindful movement that cleanses the mind while exercising the body."
Love to turn on music and lose yourself in dance? Great news: Not only is this fun workout good for your cardiovascular health and leg and core strength, but it can melt away anxiety.
In one study at the University of Derby in England, patients suffering from depression were prescribed dance instead of medication, according to Psychology Today — and, lo and behold, salsa dancing proved beneficial.
"Researchers cite the endorphin boost of exercise, plus the social interaction and concentration that dancing requires, and the increased self-confidence from learning a new skill," reports Psychology Today.
Strength training, which includes challenging classes like kettlebell, can improve sleep and keep anxiety at bay, according to research. Although the focus when it comes to exercise and stress is usually centered on aerobic activity that increases your heart rate and releases endorphins, the benefits of lifting weights or using your own body weight as resistance are also being explored — and the results are impressive.
“The research literature suggests that even single bouts of resistance exercise may produce moderate improvements in anxiety,” Justin Strickland, M.S., a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky, told Psychology Today.
For more tips on handling stress, check out 9 Ways To Manage Stress At Work For A Better Week and The One Dessert You Should Eat To Get Rid Of Stress on SHEFinds.com.