Home | Session 1: The Science of Stress | Session 2: Relaxation and Stress | Session 3: Exercise and Stress | Session 4: Stress Resistant Eating | Session 5: Stress Resistant Thinking

Stress Management for Health Course

Best Types of Exercise


"Exercise may improve health by helping  the brain cope better with stress."

 (The American Psychological Association)


There are two types of exercise:

1.          Aerobic

2.          Anaerobic


What is Aerobic Exercise

The word aerobic is made up of two Greek words: Aeros meaning air and Bios meaning life.

Aerobic exercise is vigorous enough to increase the body's need for oxygen and hence air intake and breathing rate increase.  Aerobic exercise is done at a pace that allows an adequate supply of oxygen to reach your muscles as you work out.  If you can hum to yourself or carry on a conversation as you work out then you are probably exercising aerobically.  This type of exercise can be continued for 20 - 45 minutes without being exhausting.


Some Examples of Aerobic Exercise include:


Brisk Walking




Aerobics classes


What is Anaerobic Exercise?

Anaerobic means literally without air or oxygen.  A term applied to microbes which can thrive only in the absence of oxygen; but it also refers to the converse of aerobic exercise, where sustained intensive exercise (eg sprinting) exceeds the body's capacity to deliver oxygen so that the muscles use energy derived from anaerobic metabolism resulting in an oxygen deficit which has to be replenished later.

Anaerobic exercise involves intense or explosive spurts of strenuous activity that leaves you gasping for breath.  This exercise can only be done for a minute or too at a time, because it depends on limited stores of glycogens (sugars) stored in the muscles, which are rapidly depleted, resulting in intense muscle fatigue.


Examples (of anaerobic exercise)

Weight lifting



Best Types Of Exercise

The best types of exercise combine 3 elements:

1.          Stamina

2.          Strength

3.          Suppleness


There are many different types of aerobic exercise and which one is best for you to use is dependent on your time limits, financial and physical limitations, and personal choice.

Low impact exercises like walking, swimming and cycling are probably the cheapest and most practical types of aerobic exercise to take. These supply the benefits without the risks of injuries such as back and knee-joint problems that can occur in high impact exercise like jogging. Walking and swimming are relatively cheap, you don't have to pay gym fees and require little in the way of special sports clothing or equipment.  You can use different ones daily.  The important thing to bear in mind is that it has to be aerobic for 20 minutes.

You need to add resistance or weight-training to your programme as lifting is an important component of exercise because it increases your strength.


A good exercise programme includes 3 types of exercise:

1.          Stretching (to improve flexibility) (Yoga, Tai Chi).

2.          Endurance (aerobic) to improve cardio fitness.

3.          Strength training (weight training).


It is wise, if suffering from stress, to avoid competitive types of exercise as research indicates competitive exercise can be stressful instead of relaxing.  So walking, swimming, cycling etc., are good, non-competitive aerobic exercise, but competitive exercise for example, squash and tennis, should be avoided.  Exercise should not be used in isolation but in order to get maximum stress reduction benefits, it should be used along with relaxation, nutrition, Tai Chi, etc.


Warm-up Cool-down Exercises

Prior to exercise it is important to spend a few minutes doing warm-up exercises and after the exercise session doing some cool-down exercises.  Chapter 20 of the recommended course workbook The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Work book, has diagrams showing these warm up and cool down exercises.  The warm up exercises help increase circulation warm up muscles, the cool down exercises allow blood circulation to return to normal.


Sticking to your Exercise Programme

It is vital to keep up your exercise programme.  Studies indicate that 50% of people who start an exercise programme, dropout.  If you stop you will lose the benefits very quickly.  This is why it is vital to choose an exercise you enjoy.  Research by behavioural psychologist shows that it takes about 3 weeks for a new habit to become automatic.  


Click here to be taken to Frequency, Intensity and Duration of Exercise