As Calgarians, we know all too well the stressors that come with living in a bustling city. From work and family demands to traffic and the ever-changing weather, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. But did you know that incorporating physical fitness into your daily routine can effectively combat stress? In this article, we’ll explore the many benefits of physical fitness for stress relief and provide local resources for Calgarians looking to get started.
The Science behind the idea
When we exercise, our bodies release endorphins, also known as “feel-good” chemicals. These chemicals can improve our mood, reduce anxiety and depression, and even help us sleep better at night. Studies have shown that regular physical activity can also help to boost self-esteem and improve cognitive function.
In addition to the release of endorphins, regular physical activity has been shown to lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone” because it is released in response to stress and can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. By lowering cortisol levels, physical activity can help reduce stress’s physical and emotional symptoms.
Physical activity can also help improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia, which can be a common problem among stressed people. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help to regulate the body’s sleep-wake cycle and improve the overall quality of sleep. This can lead to better overall physical and mental health, which can help to reduce stress levels.
Another way physical activity contributes to stress relief is by providing a sense of accomplishment and control. Accomplishing a physical task or reaching a fitness goal can give a sense of self-efficacy and boost self-esteem. The sense of control over one’s body and the ability to improve fitness levels can also contribute to feelings of empowerment, which can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
The benefits of outdoor activities
Calgary is known for its beautiful natural scenery, and taking advantage of it can provide many benefits for stress relief. Being in nature has decreased stress hormone levels, improved mood, and even improved cognitive function. This phenomenon is often referred to as “Nature Therapy” or “Eco-therapy,” and it’s the idea that immersing oneself in nature can positively impact our mental and physical health.
One of the main benefits of outdoor activities is the decrease in stress hormone levels. Studies have shown that spending time in nature can decrease cortisol levels, which, as previously mentioned, is a hormone associated with stress. Being in nature can also decrease heart rate and blood pressure, which can contribute to a feeling of relaxation and calmness.
Another benefit of outdoor activities is the improvement of mood. Being in nature can lead to awe and wonder, elevating mood and reducing stress and anxiety. Additionally, the natural environment can provide a sense of tranquillity and peace, which can help to clear the mind and promote a sense of well-being.
Furthermore, outdoor activities also provide cognitive benefits. Research has shown that spending time in nature can improve attention, focus and memory. This is because natural environments are less stimulating than urban environments, and as a result, they can help to reduce mental fatigue and improve cognitive function.
The benefits of Indoor Activities
Indoor activities can also be a great way to relieve stress. It creates a comfortable and relaxing environment, which can be particularly beneficial for those who find the natural environment too stimulating. Indoor activities, such as hitting the gym, practicing yoga, or taking a few minutes to meditate, can provide various stress-relieving benefits.
One benefit of indoor activities is the ability to control the environment. Unlike outdoor activities, indoor activities allow you to create a space that is comfortable and conducive to relaxation. This can be particularly beneficial for those who find the natural environment too stimulating or overwhelming.
For example, going to a gym in Calgary allows you to control the temperature, lighting, and music, creating a personalized workout environment that can help to reduce stress. Yoga studios in the area also offer a peaceful and serene environment, which can be particularly beneficial for those who find the natural environment too stimulating or overwhelming.
Another benefit of indoor activities is the ability to focus on the task. Indoor activities, such as yoga or meditation, can provide a sense of calm and focus that can help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Additionally, the repetitive motions of indoor activities such as swimming, cycling or running on a treadmill can provide a sense of grounding and stability that can help to clear the mind.
Calgarians have access to a wide range of indoor activities to choose from, such as gym memberships, yoga studios, and indoor swimming pools. Whether you prefer a structured workout or a more meditative approach, indoor activities can significantly reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Many gyms and yoga studios offer classes and programs that cater to different fitness levels and preferences, making it easy to find something that works for you. Additionally, many indoor swimming pools offer a variety of classes, such as aquafit and lap swimming, that can be a great way to reduce stress and improve overall health.
Simple activities to help you get started
Getting started with physical activity for stress relief can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is to find an activity that you enjoy and that fits into your schedule and lifestyle. Here are some simple activities that you can do to get started, both indoors and outdoors:
- Take a walk around your neighbourhood or in a local mall during lunch breaks
- Try a yoga class at a local studio or follow a yoga video at home
- Start a home workout routine using bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
- Practice deep breathing exercises or meditation
- Take a walk or hike in one of Calgary’s many beautiful parks, like Fish Creek Park or Nose Hill Park
- Go for a bike ride around the city
- Try a fitness class like boot camp or cardio kickboxing at a local park
- Play a sport like soccer, softball or basketball at a local community center or park
- Go for a swim at a local public pool or lake
Remember, the most important thing is finding an activity that you enjoy, and that fits into your schedule and lifestyle. Start with something small and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your physical activity as you become more comfortable.
Physical fitness is an essential aspect of stress relief, and as Calgarians, we are lucky to have many resources available. There’s something for everyone, from parks and trails to fitness centers and sports teams. Whether it’s a brisk walk in the park, a yoga class, or a game of soccer, incorporating physical activity into your daily routine can make a big difference in how you feel. So, Calgarians, don’t let stress get the best of you. Get moving and feel the difference!