Instant calmer! 3 exercises to help you reduce stress

Everything getting too much? Check out our top three stress-busting fitness routines to help relieve tension, improve fitness and create an overall sense of improved wellbeing.

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1. Pilates

This form of exercise was devised by Joseph Pilates and is loved by many an A-lister because it helps build core strength, increase flexibility and contributes to developing long, supple muscles. Pilates isn’t just good for your body though. The deep breathing and slow, precise movements can bring calm to a frazzled mind, while the deep stretches are great for unknotting tense muscles.

Pilates isn’t a quick-fix, but it’s a good relaxation technique for stress and you should be able to feel the benefits after your first three or four sessions.

The lowdown

  • Joseph Pilates designed specific equipment for the stress relief exercises he devised, but mat-based Pilates focuses on the kinds of small body lifts and movements you can do without anything other than a mat and an exercise ball.
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Exercise barefoot or just wear socks. Remove your jewellery and watch. Glasses are unlikely to interfere with your workout so you should be able to keep them on.
  • Pilates is suitable for just about everyone – from couch potatoes to fitness buffs.
  • There are plenty of online classes to try, whatever your level, or check Check out our Pilates home workout.
  • Practice once or twice a week.

2. Yoga

People have been practicing yoga for over 5000 years, so it’s not what you’d call a flash-in-the-pan! Indian in origin, it’s well-known as being a holistic form of exercise that’s good for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. It helps with flexibility, relaxation and breathing.

Yoga is a great stress relief exercise as it involves a series of both moving and stationary poses, combined with deep breathing. It aids in better sleep, toning of the muscles and a calmer and clearer mind.

The lowdown

  • Yoga is for everyone, and there are lots of different types, so if Vinyasa doesn’t float your boat you might want to try Kundalini. Or Ashtanga, or Hatha…
  • A yoga mat is recommended.
  • Positive effects can be felt after your first session.
  • Wear breathable clothes that will allow you ease of movement. Yoga is usually practiced barefoot.
  • If you’ve never tried it before, try reading up on a few poses before attempting an online class. You might find it easier to understand what the poses require if you practice first, rather than trying to see and follow what’s on a screen when you’re upside down!
  • Practice daily if you can, even if that’s just a few stretches.

3. Tai Chi

Sometimes called a ‘soft’ martial art, tai chi is a series of slow, flowing body movements that emphasise concentration, relaxation and the circulation of energy throughout the whole body.

It tones the muscles without straining them and also creates a form of internal massage, improves balance, coordination and flexibility, and helps to reduce stress.

The lowdown

  • A little bit of quiet time for yourself and a peaceful environment is ideal. No special equipment is needed.
  • Once you are relaxed and have forgotten about your hectic schedule your shoulders will relax and you’ll start to feel the tension lift from your body.
  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing. Tai chi is normally practiced barefoot or in light, thin-soled footwear.
  • Tai chi can benefit the fittest athletes as much as it can benefit beginners.

Important: With all forms of exercise, if you have any medical concerns, consult your doctor before starting new routines.

Need more exercise inspiration?

Check out our top tips to banish those bingo wings and get lush legs.

What exercise helps you beat stress?
Does running rule when it comes to keeping you calm? Or do you dance away your worries with Zumba moves? We’d love to hear your tips.