Life can be stressful sometimes. Without the proper ways to cope with and manage stress, it can lead to physical and mental health issues. While there are medications to deal with stress, physical activities are healthier and safer coping techniques to tame the tension, improve health, and boost the mood.
Saikiran Bomma is an anthropology student and a recent graduate from Penn State University. Having spent the last year of her undergraduate studies coping with the realities of being a student during a global pandemic, Saikiran from Fairfield County, Connecticut, has seen firsthand the kind of impact the pandemic has had on American students. She recommends physical activities to handle stress and maintain a balanced lifestyle.
Exercise and Coping with Stress
Medical experts have always maintained that there’s a relationship between regular exercise and health. In fact, any form of physical activity helps with stress relief. Saikiran Bomma notes that no matter how small that activity is, it still plays a major role in regulating endorphins and distracting one from the grind of daily life.
Another benefit of working out has to do with how the body uses oxygen. Physical activities help the body absorb oxygen effectively and maintain good blood flow. Since the brain’s functionality relies on a good supply of both blood and oxygen, workouts improve one’s mood considerably. This is why people get a sense of euphoria after a good session at the gym.
Stress is also associated with anxiety and worries. When the body is in a state of rest, worries take over and increase stress. However, when the body is engaged in a physical activity that puts a strain on the muscles, this takes the focus off the worries and breaks the cycle. A few minutes of a high-intensity exercise routine are usually enough to relieve stress, ease anxiety, and bring about a relaxed state of mind.
As Kiran Bomma of Fairfield County, Connecticut, explains, the best part about exercising is not just in the immediate euphoria following the workouts but also in the long-term effects. You often notice an overall improvement in your world outlook, attitude toward life in general, and how you interact with people around you. This improvement in attitude and mood is often the result of improved physical health, which in turn helps one better cope with stress.
Kiran Bomma Shares the Top Physical Activities for Stress Management
When it comes to physical activities to improve mental health, there’s no one size fits all. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, then you should start with a light form of exercising such as walking or gardening, suggests Saikiran Bomma. As you build up stamina, you can move to more demanding activities such as Tai Chi or Pilates, which are great coping techniques.
One of the simplest and easiest workout routines out there is walking. It doesn’t need special equipment and is recommended for people of all ages and body shapes. Most often, having a walk outdoors would have more benefits than exercising on the treadmill. Not only is walking a great way to relieve stress, but it also gives the whole cardiovascular system a good workout and helps regulate blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels in the blood.
For people just starting out, medical experts recommend going for short walks of up to 10 minutes once a once a day. Eventually, this can be increased to walking a duration of 30 minutes at least five times a week.
The beauty of yoga is that it just about works for everybody. From breathing exercises to stretching and strength postures, yoga has something to offer to everyone, including people with health conditions. Some yoga postures are meant to improve the body’s resilience and relieve aching muscles. That in turn improves the body’s ability to cope with stress and tension, says Saikiran Bomma. A relaxed body leads to a serene mind.
The disciplines of yoga vary in difficulty and physical demands. For people with no prior experience, hatha yoga is often a great way to start your practice. It is gentle on the body and has a special focus on stress management. If you prefer to build your physical agility and strength, you could try out ashtanga or kundalini yoga.
Spending more time in nature surrounded by greenery is often a great way to reduce stress and feel one with the universe. But apart from its mental health benefits, gardening is first and foremost a physical activity that burns calories and helps with weight management. As with every physical activity, experts recommend baby steps to start gardening. Potted plants are usually easy to grow and care for. However, the very act of weeding, watering, and pruning the potted plant has the same benefits as growing a rose garden or a veggie patch.
The main principle of tai chi is to link physical activities to breathing. The goal is to create an inner balance that extends not just to the body parts, but also the mind. According to Saikiran Bomma of Fairfield County, Connecticut, this ancient form of martial arts keeps the practitioner’s mind firmly focused on the present. It’s similar to meditation, but rather than sitting motionless to achieve that inner peace, you can still your mind with physical activity. With over 100 movements to choose from, tai chi reduces stress, improves balance, increases stamina, and makes the body more flexible and resilient. The exercises start easy and continue uninterrupted in fluid movements linked together by the breath.
Kiran Bomma views dancing as more than just a physical activity. “Whether we’re talking about salsa,” she explains, “polka, ballroom, or Irish dance, this is a social activity that improves bonding, and manages stress.” The physical aspect of dancing increases grace, agility, and elegance. Moreover, learning the steps of the dance is a form of mental exercise for the brain that reduces the risk of dementia. But dancing, above all, is an activity to be practiced in groups and that promotes a sense of wellbeing as the dancer feels part of the community as a whole.