Top Ten Exercises for Stress Relief

The good news about relieving stress through exercise is that just about any form of exercise or regular movement over a sustained period will alleviate the negative effects of stress on your body. Think of exercise as “pulling the plug” on stress, at the end of a long day. Exercise not only clears the body and mind, it provides detoxification by removing impurities through the perspiration process. Check out these links for even more information on popular stress-busting exercises:

Why is Exercise a Natural Stress-Buster?

Physical activity that gets the heart pumping increases your brain’s production of endorphins, or the “feel good” neuro-transmitters that account for the surges of well-being one feels when exercising (think, “runner’s high”).

Exercise also gives your mind an opportunity to relax. After all, it’s difficult to focus on the hassles at the office when you are engaged in strenuous physical activity. Keep your mind focused on what your body is doing and feeling, and you’ll have a vacation from the mental weight of the day’s activities (including tomorrow!).

Exercise is also a natural mood elevator. It improves our self-image and sense of accomplishment. Studies also show that regular exercise can alleviate anxiety and improve sleep patterns, which contribute to a deeper sense of control and well-being.

Which Exercises are Best for Stress?

There really are no “best” exercises for reducing the effects of stress on the body and mind; whatever physical activity that can be sustained for at least 20 minutes, three times a week or more, is going to benefit you. Here is a simple list of ideas:


  1. Walking: There is virtually no excuse for not taking a walk. Around the block, the neighborhood or even the nearest mall during inclement weather is all you need to leave your worries behind.
  1. Yoga: Gentle and yet strenuous, yoga is a relaxing way to improve flexibility and gain muscle strength. The poses also require concentration and an attention to the breath, which is why the practice has been relied upon for thousands of years to help quiet the mind and improve mental focus.
  1. Pilates: Similar to yoga, pilates focuses equally on strengthening and lengthening muscles and creating a mind-body connection through special attention to posture and core muscles of the abdomen and back.

4. Tai Chi: An ancient Chinese practice that links the breath and the body’s physical movements, Tai Chi is a meditative activity that improves flexibility, balance, energy and sleep patterns.

  1. Swimming/Aqua aerobics: From laps to calisthenics and weight-bearing movements, water-based exercises such as swimming and aqua aerobics are becoming increasingly popular with all levels of athletes.
  1. Running: For a mental and physical workout that is nearly unsurpassed in terms of burning calories and improving overall heart health, running leads the pack.
  1. Tennis: With a court to cover, a ball to track and a racket to swing, tennis has just enough moving parts that it is nearly impossible not to stay focused on the game, allowing your mind to unwind.
  1. Racquetball: While more fast-paced than tennis, due to the smaller, walled court, racquetball is a serious workout and it can be played year-round at your local gym.
  2. Circuit Training: If you are fond of gyms and enjoy a more structured routine, circuit training is a perfect way to combine cardio work and weight training. In 30 minutes, you can complete a comprehensive workout and be on your way.
  3. Bowling: Bowling is a year-round way to keep your body moving and your mind uncluttered, not to mention a great way to stay cool in the summer and dry in the winter, and still get some exercise and enjoy the company of others.



Becky Flanigan writes for An Apple Per Day, and her areas of expertise are kids and parenting, exercise and health. She is avid about her workouts, which have ranged from aqua jogging to marathon training. She and her husband Ed also enjoy entertaining, and taking vacations with their 3 kids.