TORONTO - From gift shopping to party planning and visiting loved ones, the seemingly endless demands on time and the pocketbook can take their toll during the holidays.

For those in dire need of relief, breaking a sweat through a workout rather than stress can help ease the tension.

"Physical activity can help you feel better," Jen Chapman, president of the Ontario Kinesiology Association, said in a release.

"Even mild exercise can increase self-confidence, improve your sleep, help you unwind and clear your head, and give you a sense of control over your body and life."

Exercise increases endorphins -- the brain's neurotransmitters -- helping individuals feel better and therefore increasing their sense of well-being.

Here are some tips from the Ontario Kinesiology Association to help in coping with holiday stress:

  • Try relaxation exercises. Practising relaxation techniques can help reduce stress. Relaxation techniques can slow your heart rate, lower blood pressure and breathing rate, increase blood flow to your muscles and reduce muscle tension. Relaxation can also improve concentration and reduce frustration. Slowly tense and relax each muscle starting either with your head and jaw, then moving to your neck and down to your toes or from your toes up to your head. Tense each muscle for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds and move to the next muscle.
  • Breathing exercises: Short, shallow breaths from your upper chest are a typical response to stress. Breathing using the shoulders instead of the diaphragm empties too much carbon dioxide out of the blood, upsetting the body's balance of gases. By consciously breathing from the diaphragm, this response to stress can be lessened and help lower your stress level.
  • Take the time to exercise -- it's always worth it. If exercise is part of your regular routine, take the time for your walk, your trip to the gym or the part of your day that you enjoy the most. If exercise isn't part of your routine, give it a try, but remember start slowly and work your way up.
  • Every little bit helps. Even if you find your regular exercise program slipping, every little bit helps -- parking further from the mall, doing an extra lap or two around while there, or getting off the subway or bus a stop early.
  • Find a few minutes to get some exercise and clear your head. Dress for the weather to make it easier and more comfortable.
  • Keep it up to fight the "winter blues." Not only do these tips and techniques work over the holidays, but they are great to help you cope with the "winter blues" and during all the stressful times in your life.