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5 Alternative Exercises That Will Reduce Your Anxiety

Alternative holistic ways to good mental health

a woman showing an exercise which helps reduce your anxiety
Exercises don't always have to be high-energy workouts. Sometimes it's more beneficial
to take a more serene approach to your exercise, which can be surprisingly effective, too.

Believe it or not, seven out of ten people experience anxiety on a daily basis. Whether it’s diagnosed or just in the form of fearing worst-case scenarios, this debilitating condition can take a toll on the quality of your life. That is, until you decide to take matters into your hands. Other than medical attention, which is the most important step, there are alternative holistic ways to good mental health.

Moderate exercise and physical activity produce endorphins, the feel-good chemicals, which help relieve stress. The key is finding the right exercises, as not all are designed to reduce your anxiety. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve picked 5 of the most beneficial exercises for this purpose.

Progressive muscle relaxation

Whenever you feel anxious, you might notice you’re clenching your jaw, your fists or having a stiff neck. These symptoms are called muscle tension. The trick is to work on alleviating this stress in your muscles, which in turn helps to reduce your anxiety levels. In order to achieve this, try out a technique called progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) – all you have to do is alternate between tightening and relaxing your muscles. Sounds too simple? Believe it or not, it works! Here’s an example of relieving neck pain:

1. Choose a quiet and comfortable place. Sit down, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.

2. Start shifting your attention to your neck muscles. Concentrate on the pain.

3. Slowly tense the muscles and hold for the count of ten.

4. Relax your neck muscles and try and notice the lightness you’re experiencing.

5. Repeat the process with other muscle groups

This is one of the easiest lifestyle activities, yet the benefits are enormous. Once you become aware of your muscles you’ll be able to train them to respond differently to stress. Sounds like a superpower, right?

a girl relaxing her neck muscles
Find time to relax and feeel your body, being alert yet at ease with yourself and your surrounds,
to fend away everyday stress and anxiety.

How to practice deep breathing

‘Just breathe’ might be a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Why? Because it’s true! Breathing exercises are possibly the number one coping skill when dealing with panic attacks, as shallow breaths are the main triggers for anxiety. Learning to breathe from your belly is a great weapon you can use in all stressful situations. Let’s say you’re relocating for a job – breathing exercises will help you cope with anxiety and tension when changing office. An example of a relaxing breathwork exercise to get you started:

1. Sit down with your back straight and make yourself comfortable. Place one hand on your chest and the other one on your stomach.

2. Start breathing through your nose. Feel the hand on the stomach rising, the one on the chest moving very little.

3. As you exhale through your mouth, push out as much air as you can, all the while contracting your abdomen muscles.

4. Continue breathing through your nose and exhaling through the mouth until you reduce your anxiety. Your lower abdomen should rise and fall.

If you find it difficult to breathe from your abdomen while sitting up, try lying down. Put a small book on your stomach and breathe so that the book rises as you inhale and falls as you exhale.

Rhythmic exercise

Although many don’t find the idea of running all that pleasant, the thing is that the flow of repetitive movement produces deep relaxation. All you need to do is make working out a routine and both physical and mental benefits will follow. If you don’t think running is your forte, don’t worry, as there are other rhythmic exercises.

Swimming, for example, reduces anxiety symptoms and improves your sleeping pattern. Even just a half an hour swim has the power to improve your thinking, so head out to the pool! Dancing is also a rhythmic exercise and an easy (and fun!) exercise to do at home. On the other hand, if you don’t mind strenuous activities, rowing or climbing also have a rhythmic impact. And for those who have had injuries, even walking helps. Yes, it too has a rhythmic dynamic to it – walks in nature are particularly good for alleviating the stress symptoms.

a woman taking a dog for a walk
Your pet can keep you company on light morning runs, which are a great example
of rhythmic exercise that can help you reduce your anxiety levels.

To reduce your anxiety, try doing yoga

Another way to ease the physical discomfort caused by anxiety is by practicing yoga postures, otherwise known as asanas. Because of the relaxation response yoga produces, doctors are increasingly recommending it as a way of complementary therapy. Other than helping you to reduce your anxiety, yoga has numerous other benefits as well, such as improving flexibility, balance, and stamina. However, if practiced incorrectly it can be dangerous, so start with a yoga teacher to prevent back problems and injuries.

There are different types of yoga, and the best ones to relieve stress are some gentler or more traditional types. For example, Satyananda and Hatha yoga are among the most suitable types for beginners when it comes to stress reduction. Alternatively, if you’re seeking a more intense experience, Power yoga is the very definition of modern yoga. Athletic and fitness-based, it’s generally recommended for more experienced yogis.

a woman doing yoga exercise which can reduce your anxiety
Some alternative exercises are more demanding on the body, so it's crucial that they're done
with a qualified instructor, to avoid self-injury.

Tai chi

Have you ever seen a group of people in the park moving in slow sync? Then you’ve witnessed an ancient China technique called Tai chi. Originally developed for self-defense purposes, it has evolved into a graceful physical exercise. It differs from yoga as it is a safe, low-impact option, making it more suitable for older adults who otherwise may not exercise. Another plus is that it doesn‘t require any special equipment – all you need is to reach out to a community. Once you’ve gone over the basics, it’s easy to practice it at home, although many find the social aspect of group classes a part of tai chi charm.

In the end, it’s all about your preferences and level of physical strength, but each one of these types of exercises is an excellent weapon against anxiety. Fight on!

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