There’s a reason the advice to move our bodies is suggested as a stress-relief technique: Dynamic exercise can help lower adrenal levels, while lower-intensity movement can reduce cortisol. Exercise also produces mood-boosting endorphins and helps our brains balance hormones, which can protect us against toxic stress and even relieve depression and anxiety.
We see these benefits from all types of physical activity — from walking to biking to yoga to boxing. What provides you the best respite, however, depends on your individual mood or stress-coping preferences.
Take a look below to find a fitness class that best aligns to your active stress-relief style.
I like to work stress out physically.
Take out your stress with kicks, punches, and strikes. Boxing requires precision and patience, which can offer a mental distraction, while the physical movements can help you release pent up emotions.
“With boxing, you’re either going hard in your movements or thinking about how to react appropriately — you don’t have time to take in what’s bombarding you from the outside world,” says Anna Spinks, studio manager at Life Time Frontenac in St. Louis. “In these classes, we don’t tell you to ‘leave it at the door,’ we say bring it in and let’s kick the crap out of it. You’ll finish class feeling lighter because you mentally and physically let it out.”
I like to quietly decompress.
Class to Try: SURRENDER yoga
This yin-style yoga class features meditative breathing and passive, long-held stretches. The combination provides relief from tension for both your body and mind.
“SURRENDER gives you the time and patience to decide what you want to do with any mental burdens,” says Spinks. “You can choose to push away your thoughts and focus on your breath, or use your breath as a tool to acknowledge and let go of emotions. There’s also a lot of hip-stretching movements in this class, which is a technique used to help release emotion.”
I like to feel strong and accomplished.
Class to Try: Warrior Sculpt
This class blends traditional yoga moves with high-intensity interval training (HIIT), offering both mindfulness benefits and metabolic conditioning. You’ll feel strong and blissed out.
“Warrior Sculpt gives you a good mix of stress-relief benefits,” says Spinks. “There’s no time for your mind to wander when you’re doing HIIT exercises — you’re thinking about what you’re doing in the moment, not what happened during your day. Then, when you switch to yoga, it grounds you in what you just accomplished. You’ll gain the sense of having overcome I cant’s or I don’t want tos, empowering you to handle whatever comes at you outside of the studio.”
I like to tune into my body and my breath.
Class to Try: ROOT yoga
Our all-levels yoga class, ROOT is designed to leave you feeling centered yet revitalized. You’ll mindfully move through foundational yoga postures while maintaining a consistent focus on your breath.
“Those who take fundamental classes like ROOT tend to feel a sense of relief about not having to guess what’s coming,” says Spinks. “There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, which can certainly be stressful, but you can feel at ease in a class like this where you know you what to expect and that you’ll have an instructor guiding you through every move.”
I like to take my mind off of my worries.
Class to Try: AMP cycle
On-the-bike choreography, lights, and upbeat music all contribute to the endorphin-boosting vibe of this cycle class. Have fun and find distraction while you get in a heart-pumping cardio workout.
“Cycle is my fitness love language,” says Spinks. “This class makes you smile, and when you do that, it literally changes the gray matter in your brain. Your only task in AMP is to enjoy what you’re doing, whether that’s sitting or standing on the bike or just pedaling to the beat. There are no measurements. It feels like you’re at a fun get-together with friends without having to worry about social distancing, because we’ve already taken care of that for you.”