What Exercise is Best to Reduce Stress?

Is the type and amount of exercise important in mediating your response to stress?

This is one controversial subject matter. 

So often you’ll hear of Jack or Jill hitting the gym after a terrible day at work, an argument or whatever, and their intention is to ‘smash it out’ a gut wrenching session. We have gyms that now specialise in high intensity systems and that’s all they do. If you join that gym you can guarantee that every session will be a ‘smash it out’ session. 

High intensity exercise has its place. When in a competition, when you’re being paid to do it, to save a family members life or when a pack of wild dogs are chasing you down. 

The idea that high intensity training is what athletes do, so it’s what we all should do is a fallacy. First off, athletes spend an extraordinarily low amount of their overall training time on high intensity training and when they do, it’s part of a programmed period of training building up to competition. Secondly, athletes are not everyone. They are usually the special specimens that have great genes and further, understand the risks they take with their training and how it may impact their bodies. 

The point I’m getting to here is this. Stress is like a fire. The more you pile onto it the more fierce it becomes. High intensity exercise, let’s say anything you rate as 8 out of 10 effort, is putting stress on the body. That stitch in your side when running, that burn in the muscles when you keep pushing out the reps and that headache after the training session; that is just more physiological stress being piled on top of other stress. 

I am not saying my clients or I never work on movements and just sit around taking it easy – we follow designed programs using moderate intensities, efforts and durations. The results always speak for themselves. 

As a guide, if you can practice your training (whatever it is) while breathing only in and out of the nose, you are in the good zone. If your focus is the movement and performing it good, better and ‘betterer’ with nasal breathing – you are doing the best you can.