10 Stress Buster Exercises for the Holiday Season

By Alex Hoffmann on December, 3 2020
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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

Stress buster exercises aren’t just for your clients. In fact, 20 percent of athletic trainers show high levels of emotional burnout and exhaustion due to a poor work-life balance,  according to the Journal of Athletic Training. When this stress becomes chronic—lasting from November through until the end of the year, if not longer—is when it becomes problematic and hard on your body. 

In How to Free Yourself From Stress, health experts explain why: “The constant physiological response wears us down, affecting several major biological systems. Our stores of energy drain. Our bodies produce fewer infection-fighting T-cells, so our immune systems become weak, making it easy for illnesses and diseases to push their way into our lives.”

The 2020 holidays may pose even more stress than usual for you, with 58 percent of health professionals saying they lost either some or all of their income during COVID-19, according to the Personal Trainer Development Center

The good news is, you’re already prepared to tackle this stress head-on with your health and fitness knowledge. Instead of sticking with your usual fitness routine this season, focus on adding stress buster exercises that allow you to move from stress to strength. 

Don’t forget to share these exercises with clients, who are also feeling the stress this time of year!

Keep Reading: 3 Health Tactics to Have Less Stress This Holiday Season

 

How Exercise Helps Manage and Reduce Stress 

In times of acute or chronic stress, it can feel draining to motivate yourself for a workout. However, even a moderate amount of daily exercise can increase various aspects of your well-being such as mood state, self-esteem, resilience, satisfaction and emotional regulation, according to the British Journal of Health Psychology. This, in turn, enables you to cope more effectively with stressful circumstances.

The journal also suggests that physical exertion increases and strengthens neurotransmitters in the brain which are responsible for emitting dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. These hormones stimulate positive emotions and counteract the production of stress hormones like cortisol. 

If you wonder why you feel more relaxed after a workout, this is why—that dopamine, serotonin and endorphin release allows you to feel more relaxed, energized and balanced, no matter how much pressure the holidays bring.  

    

10 Stress Buster Exercises for the Holiday Season  

While there are plenty of exercises in your arsenal, focusing on high-intensity exercises to blow off steam and calm your stress levels is ideal. Each of the exercises listed below activates a full range of muscles and leans on plyometric and kick-boxing elements to help you channel all that stress buildup into a much-needed energy release. 

Build these exercises into your current routine or build a new program specifically for the holidays—for you and your clients!

Keep Reading: Winter Workout Plans: How to Make Them More Effective for Clients

 

Side Kick Squats

Targeted Areas: quadriceps, glutes, hips, core, lower back, calves

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and lower into a squat position with your back straight, chest forward, core tight, hips square and knees in line with your toes. As you return to a standing position, shift the weight onto your right foot and kick your left leg out to the side, with your toes flexed and the sole of your foot facing out. Lower back into a squat and repeat this motion on the other side. 

 

Plyometric Push-Ups

Targeted Areas: triceps, shoulders, core, pectorals, back  

Start in a high plank with elbows and knees straight, hands parallel just outside the shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the floor into a push-up. Make sure both your core and lower body are tight, and point your elbows toward the back of the room. Straighten your arms with force, so both hands leave the floor, clap them together, then return to the start and repeat. 

 

Lateral Skater Jumps

Targeted Areas: quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees bent. Hinge forward at the hips, shift the weight onto your right foot and raise the left leg off the floor. Bend the right knee deeply and push off your standing foot, leaping laterally to the opposite side, landing on your left foot, pulling the right leg over. Without touching the floor or losing momentum, repeat this sequence on the other side, leaping laterally to the right and pulling the left leg over. 

 

Reverse Lunge Knee-Ups

Targeted Areas: quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, core, glutes 

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then step back on your right foot and bend the knees into a low reverse lunge. Pull in your core for balance, keep your back straight and push off the left heel, as you launch the right knee toward your chest at the same time. Return to lunge position and repeat on the other side. 

 

Uppercut Punches

Targeted Areas: biceps, shoulders, core, glutes, quadriceps, pectorals

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Pivot your left shoulder and hip forward, and step back with your right foot. Keep your elbows close to the body, squeeze your hands into fists, and punch upward explosively, first with the right hand then with the left, making sure both thumbs face toward you. Repeat on the other side. 

 

Speed Bag and Shuffles

Targeted Areas: biceps, shoulders, triceps, lower back, core  

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your arms up in front of your chest. Squeeze your hands into fists and extend both your elbows out to each side at about 90 degrees. Rotate your fists around each other in quick, circular motions, while shuffling your feet back and forth. Repeat this sequence for 20-60 seconds without losing momentum. Pause for a few breaths, then perform again.

 

Mountain Climber Burpees

Targeted Areas: Quadriceps, hamstrings, core, back, hips, glutes, pectorals, triceps

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then bend your knees, put your weight in your heels and lower into a squat until your palms touch the floor. Jump your feet behind you into a plank, then alternate pulling both of your knees, one at a time, into the chest as fast as you can for 10 seconds. Jump the feet back toward your hands into a squat, then explosively jump high, like you would at the top of a burpee.  

 

High Tuck Jumps

Targeted Areas: quadriceps, core, hips, glutes, calves, hamstrings

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder height, then bend your elbows out to each side at about 90 degrees with palms facing down. Jump explosively off the floor until your knees and palms touch, landing gently with the knees bent. 

 

Crunch Punches

Targeted Areas: quadriceps, hamstrings, core, back, hips, calves

Lay in a supine position, back flat on the floor, knees bent, feet flat on the ground and hands in fits, with your elbows bent at 90-degrees at your sides, palms facing in. Crunch up toward your knees and release 2-10 punches at the top of the crunch. Roll back down to start and repeat. Use the ladder format for repetitions, starting with 2 and working your way up to 10, or vice versa.

 

Plank Ladders 

Targeted Areas: core, triceps, shoulders, quadriceps, glutes, hips 

Start in a high plank with your elbows and knees straight, hands parallel below the shoulders and feet hip-width apart. Jump the feet six inches toward your arms, then pause for a second before jumping another six inches. Return to a plank, while ensuring that your arms and core remain tight, and that your hips don’t jut up into the air—the goal is to maintain a flat spine to keep the core engaged. 

 

Stress Buster Exercises for the Holiday Season

Use what you know best to manage your stress this season. Each of these stress busting exercises can be added into a current routine or used to build a new explosive, plyometric workout that will keep your heart racing and endorphins flooding in on even the most stressful days.

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Alex Hoffmann

Dr. Alex Hoffmann is the President of the College of Exercise Science. He earned a doctorate in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy, a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton, and a bachelor's degree in exercise science from Central College. Prior to his career in academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as Master Fitness Trainer course instructor for the United States Army, and as a strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and nutritionist.

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