One of the very best things you can do to cut stress is add some aerobic/cardio exercise to your daily routine. It’s been proven in numerous clinical trials to be an effective treatment for depression and anxiety.
That’s because it works on a hormonal level in two different ways…
First, it lowers the level of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline, which we’ve talked about a lot lately).
But it also helps your body produce more endorphins, which are your “feel good” hormones that help boost your mood, and work as natural painkillers.
That’s not even considering all the other health benefits you can get from doing cardio, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of many chronic diseases.
The reason we said this news stresses some people out is that the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that most of us get 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise a week.
But don’t let that number scare you.
That’s only 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. And that 30 minutes doesn’t have to be done all at once – you can rack it up in shorter bursts of activity over the course of the day.
We know for some people (especially those who have been inactive or are coming back from illness/injury), even 30 minutes over the course of a day can seem like a lot.
We’ve got a good rule of thumb you can follow so you don’t end up doing too much, too soon and end up feeling overwhelmed and overtired (and overstressed!).
What you want to do is just start doing some form of cardio exercise. Walking is a good bet, but so is biking, dancing, swimming or any other exercise you enjoy.
Depending on your experience and fitness level, you can start out with 5-10 minutes, and not worry too much about how hard you are working – although if you’re new to working out you definitely do NOT want to be pushing so hard you get winded (the point you can’t hold a conversation).
You can start out with just a few sessions of cardio a week, and then build up over time.
There’s something called the 10% rule that has been used for decades to help people improve their cardio fitness.
Here’s how it works: if you’re working out for a total of 60 minutes a week (15 minutes, 4 times a week), you would add 10 percent to that (6 minutes), so you are spending a total of 66 minutes working out the next week. You can break that up however you want: you could do 3 x 15-minute sessions and 1 x 21-minute session, or whatever works for your schedule and how you feel.
Once you get to the point where you are able to go for 20-30 minutes at least 3 days a week without getting too tired, you can start adding little intensity boosts to your routine.
Basically, you just start walking/cycling a little faster for a set period of time and then slow back down so you can recover.
One of our favorite ways to add intensity bursts to our cardio routine is to load up a music playlist with some of our favorite “pump me up” songs, and every time the songs get to the chorus, that’s when we pick up the pace!
It makes it fun – and that’s always a hallmark of a good workout!
Depending on your history with exercise and current level of fitness, you might notice in a few weeks, you will notice you’re able to ramp up your time a little faster than you could the first week or so.
If you have any questions about this, just let us know. We can help you put together a plan that works for you, your goals, and your lifestyle!