When you exercise, the brain releases feel-good chemicals that help you feel motivated, calm or energized. Try these specific activities the next time you feel anxious or down-in-the-dumps:
1. Stressed out or anxious
High-energy exercise, such as boxing and martial arts, provide an effective release of negative emotions. “To keep stress hormone levels under control, any exercise that’s aerobic, upbeat and stimulates circulation is excellent,” says Stephanie Vitorino, group fitness manager for Equinox in Woodland Hills, CA. To reduce the stress hormone “cortisol,” include 30 minutes of non-competitive aerobic activity, including swimming and cycling.
2. Fatigued or sleepy
A review of 12 studies on the connection between exercise and fatigue measured the amount of physical activity and how much fatigue the participants experienced. All found a direct link between reduced fatigue and active exercise. You don’t need to run a marathon to pump up stamina, says Vitorino. “Just 20 minutes of power walking or sun salutations will do wonders.”
3. Unfocused or ill-at-ease
Exercise improves your ability to think more clearly. Dr. Phillip Tomporowski, an exercise scientist at the University of Georgia, narrowed down the optimal prescription to 20 to 30 minutes of aerobics such as power walking, running and biking. “A short bout of cardio is enough to unlock a mental block,” says Dr. Tomporowski.
4. Sad or lethargic
“Working out with an empathetic buddy or heading outside for a sunny sail or bike ride can battle this slump,” says Vitorino. Just 30 minutes of steady exercise–from elliptical training and stair climbing to weight lifting and cross-country skiing–keeps stress off your joints, and smokes those calories.