The Effects of Stress and Exercise

Stress-Busting Cardio Workout

The weather is changing, schedules are tight, happy hours and holiday festivities tend to keep you busy. Not to mention you may be running around the your kids with to all of their extra sports and activities! This can be quite stressful and make it difficult to find time for yourself! So how do you cope with the stress that comes along with the holidays and limited time?

Finding time to keep up your fit and healthy lifestyle can be challenging. However, scheduling in consistent workouts will help you cope with this busy time of year by giving you more energy and reducing stress levels. With these quick and simple calorie-burning cardio drills you can ward of holiday season stress and can keep your mind and body feeling great.

What is stress?

The definition of “stress” in reference to the human body is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. (Merriam-Webster Inc.) Stress is your body’s reaction to external demands. It can be composed of both good and bad experiences depending on how you are affected by the situation. When stress is felt, the body reacts by releasing chemicals into the blood to help produce more energy and strength to deal with the “stressful” situation. This can be a good thing if you are put into a life threatening situation and need the physical energy to get through it, however, it can also be a bad thing if you are responding to something emotional and there is no release for the extra energy to go. Whether you experience the positive or negative effects of stress, finding ways to cope with it will help ease your mind and body.

What causes stress?

Stress can be brought on by many factors that include:

Physical Stress– environmental conditions such as temperature, pollution, illness, injury, or trauma to the body.

Survival Stress– Refers to the “fight or flight” syndrome. When there is a fear or physical danger, your body naturally responds with a burst of energy to help deal with surviving the dangerous situation.

Internal Stress– worrying about things you cannot control or for no reason at all. This is one of the most important kinds of stress to understand and manage. Often we tend to live to busy, nonstop lifestyles that result in stress.

Environmental Stress– Stress caused by things going on around you such as noise, crowds, and pressure from work or family. Learning to avoid or deal with these situations will help reduce your stress level.

Fatigue & Burnout– One of the toughest stresses to avoid and is often out of your control. Stress builds up over a period of time and can be draining on your body. It is a result of working too much or too hard at your job, school, or at home and can sometimes be cause by inefficient time management.

What is the best form of exercise to beat stress?

When considering the best form of exercise, my answer is always everything and anything that keeps you motivated and interested! I would suggest incorporating all aspects of health and fitness to achieve the best results no matter what style of training you do. As long as it contains cardio, strength, core, balance, and flexibility, you’ll feel great and get an optimal workout for your body and mind.

How often should one exercise to keep stress at bay?

Stress lies within us all and it can sneak up when you least expect it! To prevent the added stress from taking over, take control by planning out your daily accomplishments and include a daily form of exercise to decompress any anxiety from an overwhelming schedule. A quick workout that fits into your schedule is better than no workout! I would suggest aiming for something everyday – make some days short but keep at least 3 days more challenging! It may sound like a lot, but we’re talking even 5 minutes of something daily to elevate your mood, eliminate your stress, and to keep you feeling strong and healthy!

Can I use my Total Gym for Cardio Exercises?

The Total Gym can be used for cardio as well as total body strength. The cardio plan I devised will provide you with some added drills to do “off” of the Total Gym to really work on blasting the fat, increasing the calories burned, and reducing stress buildup!

The drills provided can also be used as a cardio and strength interval workout when combined with your Total Gym equipment. For example, do the warm up listed. Proceed to do a few of your favorite Total Gym strength exercises and then add in some of the cardio drills I have listed. Complete the workout with the cool down stretches. This cardio-blasting plan will allow you to choose whether you want to do just a cardio workout or one that incorporates strength and cardio intervals!

Stress Busting Cardio Workout:

How it works…
This workout can be completed in 15 minutes or less. If more time permits, repeat the 5-minute stress busting cardio drills 2-3 times then proceed to the cool down.

Dynamic Warm up (5 minutes)
Cardio buster drills (5 minutes total or repeat sequence for a longer workout)
Cool down (5 minutes)

• Set a timer for 1-minute intervals.
• Perform each exercise for 1 minute each completing the warm up, then the cardio drills, then the cool down. Repeat drills for longer workout.
• Quick…Simple…and efficient!

WARM UP: (5 minutes)
Squat jacks
High knees
Diagonal leg swings
Mountain climbers

CARDIO DRILLS: (5 minutes)
180 Degree burpees
Front / back / side to side
2 jumping jacks, 1 vertical jump, 1 split jump
Knee up lunge back 2 push up (alternate legs)
Frog jump shuffle

COOL DOWN: (5 minutes)
Hold each stretch for a few seconds and do both sides:
Lateral lunge
Hip flexor stretch lunge
Quad stretch
Fig 4
Sumo shoulder twist

*Please refer to the accompanying video to see how these exercises are performed.

Good luck always!

Maria Sollon

Maria Sollon Scally MS, CSCS holds a Master’s Degree in Performance Enhancement/Injury Prevention and Kinesiology. She has obtained numerous certifications in various areas of fitness and is a national conference presenter. Maria specializes in Pilates, Performance Coaching, and Corrective Exercise Techniques and Kettlebells. She is the creator of the Plyo Pilates Method and has developed a series of amazing workout DVDs. She is a Master Trainer for Total Gym, Resist-a-Ball, Body Blade, Peak Pilates, Kettle Bell Concepts and is a freelance writer for Fitness accredited magazines, newsletters, and fitness blog sites. Maria demonstrates her knowledge each day and uses her dynamic creativity throughout her specialized line of work. (purchasable workout videos) (workout clips)

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