Rid your body of stress and other unwanted poisons through exercise

EXERCISE IS ABOUT MORE THAN a neon Lycra kit and different sized balls. It releases endorphins, nature’s own drug, and helps your body let go of tension. The simple truth? The more exercise you do the better shape both your body and mind will be in. You can improve your self-image, crank up your confidence and spend some quality time with mates – all on the sports field or surface of your choice. Here are 10 indoor and outdoor activities that are guaranteed to destroy stress

1.Squash

Get moving There are few sports that can beat squash for its ability to kill stress and quicken your heart rate at the same time. Within a few seconds you’re burning kilojoules like you have an internal furnace, and it can be attributed to the fact that it “provides meditation in movement,” says Andrew McKune, associate professor at the School of Physiotherapy, Sport Science and Optometry at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. By having to focus on a small object moving at speeds close to 100km/h in very close quarters, you soon forget the day’s dilemmas. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself to beat your opponent every time – that’ll just add to your stress load. “If you regard the outcome of the competition as an indication of your personal value, then competitive port will cause additional stress,” says McKune. So enjoy the game for the benefits it provides, and don’t put yourself down if you lose. You’ll get him next time.

Extra benefits Improves speed, cardiovascular ability and handeye-coordination.

2. T’ai chi

Get moving This ancient martial art can be done indoors or outdoors, and is not just for old people or guys in Jackie Chan movies. “It can teach you to understand energy and feel power within your body,” says McKune. Use it to banish stress, which is seen as “bad energy”. The meditation aspect also improves your mental ability to cope with stress. Your flexibility, blood circulation and body proprioception (your body’s awareness of movement) will all be massively improved too. The Mayo Clinic in the US even found that it can improve your quality of sleep, as well as your alertness during the day.

Extra benefits Better flexibility, proprioception and balance.

3.Spinning**

Get moving For pure sweat-inducing ability, the spinning class is a winner. Spinning will increase your aerobic capacity and teach you how to push past your previous limits. “Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to increase confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety,” says McKune. “This can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.” For best results, steer clear of the serious two-wheel, zero body fat athletes, and position yourself close to a gorgeous gym bunny. It’s guaranteed to improve your performance.

Extra benefits Increased stamina and cardiovascular ability

4. Free-diving

Get moving Free-diving covers any aquatic activities that share the practice of holding your breath while diving underwater. Examples include spearfishing, free-dive photography, apnoea competitions and, to a degree, snorkelling. “When you enter the sea you are literally blocking out the stresses of your daily life on land. The sensations, sounds and sights are all completely different and your focus shifts from your inner feelings to the environment around you,” says McKune. Freediving will improve your fitness levels and will burn kilojoules quickly. But those are not the only benefits. “An amazing physiological response occurs when we go under the water: our heart rate decreases,” says McKune. You’ll be forced to forget all your troubles as you hear nothing but the blood rushing in your veins, and see the beauty of the ocean.

Extra benefits Improves lung capacity and provides a total-body workout

5.Boxing

Get moving Perfect for an all-body workout, boxing gets your legs and arms working together in a “sweet science” that protects your body while inflicting pain on others. “The punchbags provide a great aerobic (as well as strength endurance) workout for your legs and arms,” says McKune. And they’re pretty good forstress-relief. By burning extra kilojoules quickly and effectively, “you reduce your fat stores, and end up with a leaner looking body that promotes self-confidence and self-esteem,” says McKune. Just how many kilojoules will you burn in an hour of boxing in a ring? If you’re an 80kg man, you’re looking at roughly 4 125kJ. But that’s only if you can last the hour. Bottom line? Put up your dukes.

Extra benefits Improves strength, speed and flexibility and speeds up your metabolism for better weight loss