Exercising to beat stress

I’ve discovered over the years that, although exercising is the last thing I feel like when I’m stressed, it really can help me relax. Our body’s ‘fight or fight’ reaction creates energy, but there’s often nowhere for that energy to go, and we can feel tense for hours at a time.

Particularly for those of us with a sedentary job, exercise is the best outlets for this excess energy, and it doesn’t have to be playing sport at a leisure centre or going to the gym. Many forms of activity that I enjoy are free and often don’t even mean leaving the house. They certainly don’t require having a particular skill! But I always feel better afterwards.


I’ve been doing yoga regularly — several times a week — for about 15 years now. I use a dvd at home as I’ve been to classes and found I couldn’t relax as much in public. Clearly not everyone feels the same, as evidenced by the snoring I heard!

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice, dating back more than 5,000 years. The word yoga means union, and originally implied a union of the human spirit with nature. It reduces stress and improves strength, flexibility, coordination, circulation and posture, through stretching, breathing, and meditation techniques.

This is a fantastic idea, benefiting almost everyone. As we evolved, humans probably walked many miles every day, and we are designed to do so. It is free, strengthens the heart and lungs as well as the legs, and increases flexibility. I aim to walk about half an hour a day, and find that the sense of perspective makes me more productive. I try to use this as motivation when I’m not in the mood.

Getting into the habit is the hardest thing, but after that exercise really pays off, reducing stress directly and also benefitting my sleep.