How to Match a Workout to the Stress You’re Feeling

If you’re feeling tense and frustrated, one of the best things you can do to find relief is hit the gym and get that rage out. Sweating and working out boost endorphin levels, which can make you feel happier and less stressed.

working out when stressed how to decide what workout to do

What’s more, there are actually different types of exercise that are better at mitigating tension than others based on how they elevate the mood and leave you feeling afterwards. Here are the best workouts to do to get rid of stress ASAP, no matter where it’s coming from.

For Chronic Stress

The best thing to do for chronic stress is to find an activity that involves nature, as nature can improve happiness and health, says Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA, a psychotherapist, coach and speaker. “Someone suffering from chronic stress can take walks or hikes in green spaces like parks or hiking trails. There is research stating that walks in nature lowers blood pressure,” she says.

Take a friend to keep you company and help sort out those problems on your nature walk. A nice leisurely pace is perfect for this. If you live in a city, head out and enjoy a local park, a conservatory, or any other green space you can access.

For Short-Term, Immediate Stress

Let’s say you have a deadline coming up or a presentation you’ve been quite nervous about. The best way to ease that anxiety is to do something physical but also relaxing to help you feel more composed before the big event.

“When someone is stressed because they have something coming up in the short term, they can focus on meditation related exercises,” Mendoza says. Yoga or tai chi would perfectly fit the mark. “This would allow the person to calmly reflect but also get in that needed physical activity,” she says.

For Angry Stress

An angry stress can be lessened by doing something to burn off that extra emotional energy—and those calories! Try strength training with weights and some cardio, like a HIIT or CrossFit class. These group fitness options have a good mix of activities and torch calories by getting your heart rate sky-high. In this case, all the pent up angry energy can be spent on more productive activities.

Or, for a more literal reaction to angry stress, wrap your hands and take on a boxing class. Hitting that heavy bag can provide a physical release for that stress you’re feeling, and the exhaustion you’ll feel after eight rounds might be enough to quiet your racing thoughts for awhile post-class.

For a Sad, Depressive Stress

A sad, more depressed state would be greatly relieved with group activity training, as it boosts camaraderie and removes the isolation that the person is feeling, Mendoza says. Zumba, CrossFit, HIIT classes, or group hikes can all help work on connection—all have great energy.

“Human connection is a powerful tool to help with depression,” Mendoza points out.  Even those who want to keep their headphones in can still be around other people to get them out of their rut.

For an Excited (Sort of Nervous) Stress

If you’re looking forward to something but it’s also giving you those butterflies, something more low-key for exercise would be best to help you mellow out and just enjoy the excitement aspect over the anxiety.

“An excited, nervous stress will benefit from more calming practices. Walks in the park, hiking or anything to be around nature will calm most people,” Mendoza emphasizes. In addition, focusing with yoga or tai chi will use deliberate thinking to slow those racing thoughts, she adds.


Of course it’s healthy to mix up your workouts and go for variety! But if you aren’t sure which workout is best to choose based on the stress type you’re feeling, this handy guide can help you figure out what your body (and your nerves) need.

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About Isadora Baum

Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, author, and certified health coach. She writes for various magazines, such as Cooking Light, SHAPE, Men's Health, Women's Health, Health, Prevention, POPSUGAR, Runner's World, Bustle, and more. She is also the author of the book "5-Minute Energy." She can't resist a good sample, a killer margarita, a new HIIT class, or an easy laugh. Beyond magazines, she helps grow businesses through blogging and content marketing strategy.