There’s more to exercise than losing weight and building bigger biceps. What’s going on above the neck is just as important. The state of your mind is closely linked to the state of your body.
Mind-body fitness, like mind-body medicine, honors the connection between your physical and mental wellbeing. Learn how to integrate outer movement and inner focus with these suggestions for peaceful and empowering workouts.
General Principles Behind Mind-Body Exercise
1. Pay attention. As you would imagine, mindfulness creates the foundation for integrated workouts. Let go of daily concerns. Be aware of your movements, thoughts, and feelings. Enjoy the changing sensations.
2. Breathe deeply. Abdominal breathing is one way to calm your mind and energize your body. Experiment with three-part breath filling and expanding your abdomen, your lower chest, and finally your upper chest. Reverse the flow as you exhale.
3. Relieve stress. Physical activity is a constructive response to tension. Exercise lowers your levels of stress hormones and raises your endorphins.
4. Be flexible. Listen to your body to tell when you’re ready for a change from your planned workouts. Maybe you need an active rest day doing gentle stretches instead of your usual run.
5. Practice deliberately. There’s a natural tendency to gravitate towards tasks we’re already good at. You’ll make more progress if you structure your workouts to target the areas where you want to grow.
6. Boost your immune system. A little time at the gym can help you manage chronic conditions and catch fewer colds. You may even recover from surgery faster.
7. Develop spiritually. Incorporate your beliefs into your routine. Study chakras or give thanks to God for your body.
8. Feel happier. Twenty minutes of exercise can enhance your mood for up to 12 hours, according to one University of Vermont study. Plus, those effects seem strongest when you start out feeling blue.
Specific Workouts for Mind-Body Exercise
1. Practice yoga. Yoga’s original purpose was to condition the body to be comfortable in seated meditation. You can experience benefits whether you follow the spiritual teachings or just like downward dog.
2. Do Pilates. Pilates is much younger than yoga, but many of the exercises are similar. It may be a good option if you’re less interested in the spiritual aspects of yoga.
3. Study martial arts. Meditation in motion is a term often used to describe martial arts, as well as yoga. Tai Chi can be an especially good choice for seniors because it’s gentle and challenging.
4. Take a walk. Treadmills have their place, but heading outdoors makes exercise seem like less work. Aim to take more steps each day.
5. Dance around. Dancing gives your whole body a workout while your mind is busy learning the steps. Take a class that suits your ability and plays the music you love.
6. Work on balance. Remember balance while you’re training for strength, aerobic capacity, and flexibility. Being steady on your feet sharpens your thinking, and may even help you to live longer. Ride your bike or try standing on one foot while you’re on the phone.
7. Sit and meditate. Have you been dreaming about a workout that would let you remain sitting down? You’ll probably need to do more than meditate, but some advanced practitioners believe that a supple body is one result of deep and prolonged contemplation of virtuous objects.
Train your mind and your muscles. Mind-body exercise will enhance your mental and physical fitness. Taking an integrated approach to your workouts allows you to enjoy exercise more and achieve the long-term results you need for greater health and wellbeing.