We all need a little stress relief, and exercise is a great way to literally move past daily stressors. What do we recommend? That’s easy: Do what you love!

Almost any form of exercise or movement can increase your fitness level while decreasing your stress. The most important thing is to pick an activity that you enjoy; otherwise, you’re just causing yourself more stress. For example, you may choose walking, stair climbing, jogging, dancing, bicycling, yoga, tai chi, gardening, weightlifting or swimming, to name a few.

Whether you’re a regular exerciser or new to fitness, it’s important to prepare for physical activities by improving in these four key elements of your fitness: 

FORTIFY THE FORT: Strengthen Your Core

Regardless of the type of activity you choose, having strong core muscles (abdomen, back, gluteus and scapular muscles) is important. A strong core gives you a solid foundation for more efficient (and safer) movement—whether you’re gardening, mowing the lawn, swinging a bat, running or driving a golf ball. To prevent injuries and enhance your performance, here are some quick core-building tips to add to your fitness routine:

  • Include core-conditioning exercises such as planks, spinal bridges, and push-ups in your regular fitness routine; aim for no less than three days per week.
  • It’s quick and easy to incorporate some equipment. Think stability balls, bands, sliding/balance discs, and weights—all of which can help challenge your core.
  • Fun and stress-free, yoga and Pilates are also very effective at strengthening your core.
  • Swap out a day of your usual cardio for a ride on the ElliptiGO, a great cardiovascular activity that demands a strong core.

ADD SPRING TO YOUR STEP: Flexibility & Recovery

If you’ve not been actively working to maintain your flexibility, you’ll notice that, as the years go by, your muscles and joints feel stiffer and less flexible. It’s time to add stretching exercises to your fitness and daily routine. Here are some guidelines:

  • Begin slowly by adding two stretches per body part per day into your workout routine.
  • Pay special attention to the muscle groups and joints that seem to need it. Listen to your body; it knows what you need!
  • Incorporate dynamic movements that mimic your chosen fitness activity to prepare muscles to perform their best and prevent injuries.
  • Be sure to practice recovery strategies such as static stretching and using a foam roller on target muscles as part of your regular fitness routine.
  • Include these quick flexibility exercises: low-back extension press-ups, shoulder circles, neck stretches, quadriceps and hamstring stretches and side bends.
  • Check out MELT!, a self-treatment technique that hydrates connective tissue and keeps your body in balance.
  • Try self-massage with dōTERRA Deep Blue oil, a pure essential oil.

TAKE HEART: Cardiovascular Conditioning

Did you maintain aerobic activity during the pandemic? Did you maintain a normal body weight? If not, now is the time to start making adjustments for the months ahead. Conditioning your body and heart is essential. The level of cardiovascular activity you plan on doing outside will dictate the amount of aerobic training you need during your preparation phase. Here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Your choice of activity matters. Walking your dog three to four miles per day will require some cardiovascular conditioning, but not nearly as much as if you were planning on playing in a game of soccer or a softball league.
  • If you like to walk outside, you can condition your body to longer durations by gradually increasing the amount of time you walk while incorporating speed and stride length variations in your workout.
  • Try using a heart rate monitor and work in your target zone to maximize fat-burning and cardiovascular benefits.
  • If you plan on playing a summer sport, start including more vigorous cardiovascular workouts at least three days per week or incorporate interval training as a means of increasing your body’s ability to adapt to greater demands.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Agility & Sport-Specific Skills

One of the best ways to get in shape for your chosen activity or sport is to just do it! Hone the skills you’ll need with exercises that mimic that activity.

  • For example, yard work requires a lot of spinal rotation, bending, kneeling and lifting.
  • Soccer requires quick bursts of activity of start and stop moves, balance, coordination and agility.
  • No matter your age or activity level, you can start agility training at any time. Agility drills, hand-eye coordination and balance exercises are perfect for any activity.

Still not sure where to start? We can help!

Whether you’re trying to reduce stress and live happier, recover from an injury, increase athletic performance or just prevent injuries from taking you away from your favorite activities, Back 2 Normal has many experts, resources and services for all levels. Our Performance Coaches can use an injury risk assessment to help identify how your movements may be affecting your athletic performance or risk for injury. Then they’ll help determine the best approach and activities for you and customize a training program to meet your needs—and desire to de-stress.

Contributing Author: Lisa Chase, PT, CFMM, OMPT, Astym Certified

The Back 2 Normal blog is an educational resource written by Back 2 Normal employees and professional associates. Back 2 Normal bloggers are professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.