Instant calmer: exercises and relaxation techniques to beat stress

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


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

Pilates isn’t a quick-fix, but you should be able to feel the benefits after your first three or four sessions.

The lowdown

  • Joseph Pilates designed equipment specific to the exercises he devised and some gyms will offer ‘machine Pilates’ for this form of training, 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.
  • Pilates is best taught on a one-to-one basis, classes should be restricted to about eight people. Work out at home after you have some experience. Check out our Pilates exercises.
  • Practice once or twice a week.


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 great for stress relief 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 Bikram, or Hatha…
  • A yoga mat is recommended.
  • Positive effects can be felt after your first class.
  • Wear breathable clothes that will allow you ease of movement. Yoga is usually practiced barefoot.
  • Initially classes are better. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can practise on your own.
  • Practice daily if you can, even if that’s just a few stretches.

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 reduces stress.

The lowdown

  • A little bit of quiet time for yourself and a peaceful environment is ideal. No special equipment is needed.
  • Results are immediate. Once you are relaxed and have forgotten about your hectic schedule your shoulders will relax and tension will 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.
  • Start off by attending classes to make sure that you have the basics right. Supplement your workout by practicing at home.
  • At least twice a week, practise at home whenever possible.

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 at Zumba? We’d love to hear your tips.

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


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