How to Relieve Stress Without Cardio

Raise your hand if the first thing you said when you were told to cut out intense exercise was, “But, cardio is my stress relief!!!”. Yeah, that was me, too. I know you’re not a liar, it feels amazing to sweat out your anxieties.

The thing is, even though your mind may find relief, your body registers it as yet another stress.

Over and over again we see that intense exercise has a negative effect on your cycle.

Nerd out on some science: Effects of Intense Training on Menstrual Function

I want you to be honest with yourself. You say cardio relieves stress, but do you feel guilty if you don’t get your cardio in? If the stress relief you get from an intense workout is that you burned a lot of calories, that is not stress relief. That is a guilt-induced workout rooted in diet culture.

If you regularly do intense workouts, and are having wonky periods or trying to conceive with regular but not getting pregnant, it’s time to cut the intensity.

You’re probably going to fight me on this, but if you’re ready to heal your body and boost your fertility, here are healthier ways to truly relieve stress.

Walking

I can hear your groan from here! I wouldn’t have believed I could find stress relief through walking either, but I can and I do. Walking (and I don’t mean power walking for an hour uphill) releases the mood-boosting endorphins that got you hooked on exercise, while actually cutting stress hormones, unlike running and other high intensity cardio.

It’s also a great way to get outside and be small in the world, soak up the sun, and get lost in your thoughts. It’s going to feel weird for a bit, only walking instead of running, but you will look forward to this as an amazing time for a mindset shift. I have my best ideas on my walks. I listen to podcasts, call friends (let’s be honest, I call my mom), and center myself when I feel overwhelmed.

Yoga

There is a reason there are fertility yoga classes. Yoga is amazing for your body and your mind. Similar to walking, you can’t compare it to what you usually expect from a workout. That’s why many women say they don’t like yoga, because they’re treating it like a workout instead of movement.

Your goal with yoga is to calm the mind and slowly move the body. Make your goal to breathe while you move, and you’ll likely get a lot more out of it!

If you go to in person yoga classes, keep trying instructors until you find someone you enjoy. Anyone can lead a bootcamp class, but when it comes to yoga, an instructor you enjoy is crucial.

My favorites on Youtube are:

Five Parks Yoga

Yoga with Kassandra

Beyoutifulliving

Practicing Gratitude

Let’s get completely out of the body and into the mind. Practicing gratitude fights chronic stress and will give you a higher quality of life by creating a ripple effect that stems from happiness. You’ll sleep better, surround yourself with more positive people and appreciate those who surround you.

But how do you logistically practice gratitude? I have two favorite ways that I very quickly and seamlessly worked into my routine.

Morning journal

You can buy a gratitude journal, or just use a plain notebook. Start your morning by writing 3 things you are grateful for or are looking forward to. Writing them down and seeing them on paper (I swear typing is just not the same!) keeps you in the positive and in the present.

Read This: Journal Prompts for Body Positivity

Reciting at night

When you’re laying in bed, waiting for sleep to take you away, say aloud (or whisper if you feel weird!) the first things you are grateful for that come to mind. For some reason I get on a roll at the end of the day and it’s a great way to drift to sleep!

These can all be small things. Some of mine routinely include:

I am grateful to live in the mountains and hear the birds everyday.

I am grateful my husband and I are a team.

I am grateful for all the amazing resources I have found.

I am grateful for the time to be outside today.

Stress is stress is stress. Your body recognizes intense exercise as a stress whether it’s making you feel calm or not. Again, a big issue I see is the worry and guilt women feel to get their workouts in. That alone is a stress!

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