The Role of Exercise in Stress Relief

It is fair to say the years following the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic have been challenging for most of us. Reduced ability to see friends and family, changes in work environments and our ability to go enjoy good food and our favourite hobbies. All of these small changes have created extra stress for people and also removed some of the usual ways of finding relaxation and stress relief.

I am hearing reports from throughout the medical community of increased numbers of patients reporting Covid fatigue, burn out, anxiety and depression. It is important for us all to take some time out to focus on ourselves and invest in some self-care. Self-care can come in many forms, from a working mum carving out 10 minutes to enjoy a hot coffee on her own, to having a technology free Saturday, completing a one-hour meditation session to engaging in some light or heavy exercise. Let’s discuss

How exercise can benefit you

Exercise has repeatedly been shown in studies to reduce the effects of stress and is even prescribed alongside medication and counselling in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Exercise will naturally increase your body’s natural happy hormones called endorphins, and will reduce the body’s stress hormones adrenaline and cortisone. It allows us to focus our minds on something else and if we are doing a repetitive motion such as walking or jogging helps to connect the right , creative, emotional, artistic part of our brains with the left, logical, organised part of the brain. This helps to calm the mind and body. Exercise is also known to be good for our cardiovascular health, bone strength, flexibility, and to improve your sleep.

Exercising outside has the added benefits of sunshine, fresh air and a change of scenery

How to choose an exercise for stress relief?

So what exercise should you be looking into taking up? The good news is that any form of exercise, even a 20 minute slow paced walk can improve your mood and reduce stress. So whether you enjoy a slow walk on your own, going for a jog, playing tennis, a cooling swim or partaking in Pilates or yoga, all of these activities will be beneficial to your mental state. The key is to pick something you enjoy and to block some time in your schedule to allow you to reap the benefits of it.  If you can exercise outside, you will get the added bonus of sunshine- the happy vitamin, a change of scenery and some fresh air.

When lifting weights, ensure that the heaviness of the weight does not make you compensate your technique to achieve the lift.

Tips when starting a new exercise regiment

If you are taking up a new exercise or returning to exercise, please remember to start slowly and not push yourself too hard or fast. We would prefer not to treat you for preventable injuries! Maybe try starting with a 15-20 minute workout at a slow to medium pace and then slowly increase the length and intensity of the workouts. If you are working with weights, do not pick the heaviest one that you can just manage to pick up. Pick the weight which on the first lift is relatively easy but by 8 repetitions you are feeling the burn. Ensure that the heaviness of the weight does not make you compensate your technique to achieve the lift.

If you have an injury, your physiotherapist will be able to offer advice on exercises that will be more suited to your condition

Exercising with an injury

If you are injured please speak to your physiotherapist about what exercise is suitable for you to take part in. Often we are able to advise you on different types of exercise which will be more suited for your condition and with exercise having so many benefits we rarely recommend that people stop exercising altogether. Modification is the key and we are here to help you with that.

Article by: Anna Garden, BSC (Hons) Physiotherapy (UK), Certified Rehabilitative Pilates Instructor.

A practicing physiotherapist in Singapore for the past 10 years, Anna is specialised in spinal, hip and pelvic pain injuries and has a further special interest in chronic pain. Her philosophy is that looking after your health by maintaining a healthy mind and body should be integrated into your daily lifestyle and not be a tedious chore. As such outside of work Anna is always looking for ways to incorporate fun exercises regimes into her relaxation time and recently learnt salsa dancing. Read more about Anna

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