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How Movement Can Help Reduce Stress

Movement is essential for both our minds and bodies. Incorporating a regular movement practice such as yoga, running, or swimming into your life, will have a significant number of benefits. From boosting your mood and increasing self confidence, to stress management to reducing your risk of illness and disease.
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‘Movement is instinctive, our bodies want to move.’

I often use the word movement intentionally instead of saying ‘exercise’ because the word ‘exercise’ often makes people think of a tough sweaty workout in a gym, or a group of athletes running around a track. However, when I talk about ‘movement’ you might consider, stretching, walking, lifting or climbing. Throughout each day, we move our bodies in a variety of different ways, and this will impact how we feel.

Proprioceptive feedback is the name given to the constant cognitive feedback loop between our body and our brain, this communication is a two way street. Both body and brain are simultaneously reacting to our changing state at any given time. So we can effectively change our mood or shift our state, simply by moving.

Think about how your body feels when you feel angry or frustrated. Your muscles might be tense, your breathing is shallow, you might clench your fist or cross your arms. Compare this to how your body typically feels when you’re happy, calm and relaxed. Your breath is slower and deeper, your brain releases dopamine and your muscles are relaxed. You’re body language and energy is always in sync.

Here are three ways in which exercise can impact your mood and as a result, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

1. Walking

Walking is so underrated! During the last year of lockdown, I have walked more than ever before. Accompanied by my 9 year old son Jude, often on his scooter or bike, we complete roughly 4 kilometers each day. Walking has the added mental health benefit of being outside in nature, in daylight, and it provides some much needed time for mindfulness. Walking is also a great way to improve your overall physical health stats too. It can improve the health of your heart, reduce blood pressure and even improve your quality of sleep. Try to incorporate walking into your daily routine as often as possible. If you have a wearable device that tracks your step count, aim for 10 thousand steps each day. *Top tip - Super charge your walk by listening to a podcast or audiobook whilst you're out.

2. Low impact (Yoga + Pilates)

Yoga and Pilates both require concentration and focus. As you move through the positions you will become more aware of your body, your breath, your emotions and your energy level. I often do low impact movement early in the morning before I start my day. As I move through each position, I start to breathe more deeply, this helps my body to wake up by increasing the oxygen flow to my muscles and brain. I also like to start the day with a physical prompt and as a reminder to myself that - ‘I am in control’. ‘I am calm and I am still’. Even when a position is difficult or uncomfortable, I can remain here and breathe calmly.’ ‘I can endure.’ This is a really empowering way to start the day and I’m pretty sure that it impacts other areas of my life too.

3. Strength training

Strength training has become increasingly popular in the last decade, particularly for women. More women are enjoying the physical benefits of strength training, such as increased athletic performance and improved posture, as well as the empowering and uplifting boost. Strength training is a great way to release stress, especially if you add a badass rock playlist into the mix too!

However you like to move, try to incorporate a variety of different types of movement into your routine as possible. Make it fun, mix it up and enjoy the feeling of energy in motion!