I hate cardio. It’s hardio.
I hate the burning feeling in my chest when my lungs demand more air. I hate the gasping feeling I get in my throat when I run up the stairs too fast. I hate the piercing stitch I get in my side from a piggy back race with the kids.
If you, too, hate feeling like you’ve been punched in the stomach from exercising (who doesn’t?), you’re going to love this news. A study published in the Journal of Biological Psychology found that to combat stress, it’s best to ditch the cardio.
The researchers discovered that moderate intensity exercise, such as hiking on undulating trails, is more effective than high intensity exercise for reducing stress, depression and anxiety. So yay for that.
My mum knew this intuitively. When I was feeling a bit “meh”, she’d send me out in the backyard to play. When I was completely stressed out, she’d send me to bed.
So if cardio isn’t the answer to combat stress, what is?
For me, it’s always a walk in nature. It helps me clear my head, washes my worries away. But there’s other options, too.
Here’s five science-backed ways to reduce stress:
Deep breathing is a simple technique for stress reduction that can be used anywhere. Similar to mindfulness-based practice, controlled breathing helps to stimulate your nervous system, which helps to lower stress levels. Wherever you are, simple pause and take ten slow deep breathes into your belly, pausing for a few seconds at the top of the inhale and pausing for a few seconds at the bottom of the exhale. You’ll be amazed at the results.
If you want to step up your breath work, try this alternate nostril breathing practice from Yoga with Adriene.
Take a hike
Walking in nature is one of the best ways to reduce stress, so don’t wait for the weekend to give it a go. Lace up your runners and stride out to your nearest bush reserve, park, bush or waterside. The wind in your hair, the sun on your skin, and the warming of your body will deliver endorphins to lift your spirits within a few minutes.
Tip: If you’re working from home, try a 10-15 minute walk at around 3pm. It’ll reduce your 3pm slump and increase your productivity for the rest of the afternoon.
Laughing promotes the release of endorphins and suppresses stress hormones such as cortisol to improve your mood. Watching a funny movie or standup comedy special is a great way to get your laughter fix. Alternatively, you could try laughter yoga or watch this hilarious cat video.
Dance like nobody’s watching
No need to wait for a wedding to move to your favourite tunes. If you don’t fancy the local Zumba or jazz class, there’s heaps of online options to try from your loungeroom. Pop your headphones on an get in the groove. Ten minutes is all it takes.
Get your yogi on
Like hiking, yoga can be the moderate intensity opportunity your body and mind need so find an online session to DIY from home or book in to your local studio. Yoga with Adrienne is awesome! Choose an energetic yoga style such as Vinyasa if stress-busting is your core focus.