Although a summer vacation should recharge you, returning home can have the opposite effect. Instead of feeling refreshed, sometimes depression levels heighten. A study at the University of Connecticut suggests that exercise can help you combat the blues.
The study examined 419 generally healthy, middle-aged adults who wore accelerometers to track their physical activity over four days. Participants also answered questionnaires about their psychological well-being and exercise habits. Working out increased happiness levels, but only when the adults completed light-to-moderate exercise. Vigorous workouts provided no positive effect.
To help you re-enter “normal life” after a vacation, follow the light-to-moderate exercise recommendation of this study with how-to advice from three experts:
1. PERFORM RANGE OF MOTION EXERCISES
“When coming back from vacation, it’s important to focus on reinstating range of motion. You aren’t going for a personal best,” says Jordan Shallow, DC, of The Muscle Doc in Mountain View, California. Shallow recommends workouts using the five major motions after time off: squat, lunge, push, pull and deadlift (if you’ve done deadlifts before).
2. ENJOY SOME LIGHT CARDIO
Ash Moon, a personal trainer based in London and Bristol in the U.K., recommends a little cardio, even an activity as laid-back as walking will do. “Walking not only gets your body moving and gently releasing endorphins into the system, but it also gets you outdoors and out of the house into different environments,” she says.
Running can also provide a positive effect on the mind similar to meditation, bringing you back to the relaxation you felt on vacation. “It is a chance to be in your body with a certain amount of focus, which allows the mind to relax a little and digest anything that is going on in your life at that time,” says Moon.
3. COMPLETE CIRCUIT TRAINING
Nina Raquel Nyiri, a fitness specialist from Tampa, Florida, recommends circuit training to get your mind and body back in rhythm. Circuits encourage versatility, are beginner-friendly and efficient. Below, she provides an example circuit you can do anywhere, targeting large muscle groups, which creates an uptick in your heart rate, but doesn’t burn you out.
SAMPLE CIRCUIT WORKOUT
Before you start, warm up. It’s imperative you get your heart rate primed and muscles warm prior to a workout or you’re just asking for an injury. Nyiri recommends this simple move:
Stand with your feet close together. Keeping your legs straight with a slight bend at the knee, stretch down and place your hands on the floor directly in front of you.
Begin walking your hands forward in a controlled manner, alternating your left and right. As you do this, try to bend only at the hips, keeping your legs straight.
Keep walking forward until your body is parallel to the ground; mimicking a push-up position.
At this point, reverse the motion by walking your hands back to your toes, keeping your legs straight and returning to an upright standing position.
Repeat this 5–8 times, depending on how quickly your body warms up. Throughout this exercise start taking deep breaths through your abdomen.
(1–2 rounds, 2–3 times per week on nonconsecutive days):
25 bodyweight squats
10 push-ups (military or modified)
20 stationary lunges (10 right, 10 left)
10 “supermans” holding two small water bottles
30 hip thrusts
30 seconds of high knees
30 seconds of plank
For bodyweight squats: If you can’t do them properly, try using a chair. From a standing position, sit down onto the chair and immediately stand back up driving your weight through your heels without leaning forward.
For bodyweight lunges: make sure to use an exaggerated lunge back position as the back foot should be resting on the ball of the foot. As you start the descent, make sure your upper body stays completely vertical. As you start the ascent, push through your front heel. If you feel unstable, place your hand on a wall.
Throughout every movement, engage your core as if someone was about to punch you in the stomach. Protect your core at all times and remember to inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
Don’t rush the movement. Each movement should be practiced with absolute control and attention to keeping the muscles engaged. For example, as you are completing your hip thrusts, think about squeezing your glutes as you are fully extending your hips toward the ceiling.
Listen to your body and stay in tune to your intensity. If you can handle more, then complete one more round. On the other hand, if you need a break, take one.