Why More People Are Adding Meditation to Their Fitness Routines
2020 was the year of working from home, and 2021 is off to a strong start with the same WFH model. Fewer of us are venturing outside, but working on our mental fitness is just as important as our physical fitness. Heart-pumping fitness classes such as boot camp and HIIT are great for burning calories and toning your muscles, but it may be time to incorporate gentler activities like yoga into your routine.
In this digital age, we are almost always occupied by social media and the internet without giving our minds the ability to rest away from our tech. The time to gather our thoughts and be still is a lost skill to many of us. In this ever busier and stressed-out world, and with cases of depression on the rise, combining meditation and exercise can be a powerful way to keep you healthy both physically and mentally.
A 2016 study found that combining meditation and exercise can positively impact mental health while enhancing brain activity. Both meditation and exercise are lifelong skills that cost very little and have few negative side effects. Here are some of the benefits you can receive by adding meditation to your daily fitness routine.
Meditation lets us focus on the present. There are a lot of distractions in our lives, or when we perform as an athlete—noise being a significant factor. Meditation teaches us how to strengthen our focus and drop distractions—especially negative thoughts that may interfere with our success.
There have been studies that research the use of alternative treatments and therapies for mild to moderate anxiety disorders where the diet, exercise routine, and mindfulness factors are taken into consideration. It noted that while exercise is known for assisting in lessening anxiety and depression, they followed it with a statement that the most effective way to treat mild to moderate disorders is through the adoption of moderate exercise and meditation.
Improve Neural Function
Together, exercise and meditation can be a powerful combination for our brains. In a 2014 study, researchers found that the combination of mental focus and exertion used by those practicing Tai Chi has shown more improved neural function than those who practiced the two alone. The improvement was seen in the part of the brain that controls executive functions—these functions include task planning, goal setting, the executive function of those goals, and working memory. By combining mindfulness and meditation in your fitness routine, you can improve your brain’s ability to set goals and achieve them.
Adding Meditation to Your Fitness Routine
Meditation is not just sitting cross-legged and saying “om”—it’s an exercise in mental and emotional clarity. You can start adding meditation to your fitness routine by working on a few of the following:
How to Start
If you’re not used to sitting still, start with a 30-second meditation and work your way up from there. Close your eyes and take long, deep breaths. Release your breath slowly and connect with the air leaving your body. Repeat.
At first, your mind may drift, but making the effort to move your thoughts back to your breath is the first step of exercising your mind through resistance.
You can either do a 30-second meditation before you start your workout, or you can practice active meditation. This is where you practice breathing and focus techniques while stretching. If your warm-up includes jogging, squats, jumping jacks, or anything a bit more onerous, you can turn your mind towards your muscles and connect with the movement of your body.
You’ve finished working out, and you’re tired. But now you need to stretch to avoid cramping. Before you grab a hot shower, sit down and stretch. We know how important it is to stretch after a workout as it is before—it’s also the perfect time to meditate!
Use the same breathing techniques introduced in the pre-workout meditation and focus on your breathing while turning your mind toward your worked-out muscles.
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