Mindfulness For Better Fitness Outcomes
A mindful approach to exercise can help train your body and mind for better exercise outcomes and a balanced, healthy life. Being aware of your approach to exercise can mean getting the benefits you want, including losing excess weight, building overall strength and muscle tone, improving balance and flexibility, and having a calm, clear mind. It includes focus on the intensity of your workout, your breathing, your heart rate, and changing your routine to work different muscle groups, all of which can result in noticeable, quicker results.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is being conscious or aware. According to Massachusetts Medical Center Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction Program Founder Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness means paying attention on purpose with non-judgmental awareness. It is “the gentle effort to be continuously present during an experience.”1
When exercising, mindfulness means deliberately noticing sensations, actions, and responses to them. When your mind wanders, you risk exercising with poor form and straining or injuring your body. But mindfulness techniques can help you improve your form and avoid injuries by redirecting your attention to focus on your actions.
Mindful exercising means integrating your mind and body.
Try these tips to exercise mindfully:
- Be aware of your breathing, posture, and body
- Stand in a relaxed position with your feel slightly apart and breathe in, watching your breath as it is moment to moment. Continue breathing mindfully as you come into an open, natural posture
- Notice your shoulders and if there is any tension or tightness soften it if you can
- Stand up straight, open your chest, and breathe in and out normally and naturally.
- Lift your chin
- Soften your spine and stretch it gently upward
- Stand tall, breathing in and out normally and naturally
- Consider how your body feels, focusing on and noting what (your muscles, bones, and skin) feels like: loose, tight, uncomfortable, or even painful
- Be aware of your energy level
- Be aware of your breathing
In addition to aligning your spine and joints and helping prevent injuries, being mindful of your posture and breathing is fundamental to a healthy, natural flow of movement throughout the body.
- Be aware of your surroundings and be prepared
- Create a calm environment in which to exercise. Eliminate distractions such as loud background noises from a TV/radio, overly bright lights if you are inside, unpleasant odors, extreme temperatures, email alerts, and other people if they aren’t exercising with you
- Ensure you have everything you need before you begin, including appropriate clothing and footwear, water, and equipment such as an exercise mat, free weights, flexibility bands, kettle bells, stability ball, treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationary bicycle
- Have a plan for each exercise session
- Plan what you will accomplish, whether it’s running for 20 minutes, completing a specified (upper body/lower body) strength training routine, cycling 12 miles at a certain average speed, or swimming a certain number of laps
- If your mind wanders during your work out, gently acknowledge where your mind has gone, then bring your attention back to your breathing. Then on purpose redirect your thoughts to your exercise. Over time, the repeated practice of redirecting your thoughts will become a habit of staying focused on your actions. The ability to quickly separate yourself from distractions and focus on your activity will help you be a regular, focused exerciser.
- Include meditation in your weekly exercise routine
Strength training, flexibility, and cardiovascular conditioning are the foundation of a well-rounded fitness routine that can help keep you healthy and strong throughout your life. In addition to helping you focus on your exercise, meditation can enhance your overall health, happiness, and well-being.2
Talk with your Summit Medical Group practitioner
before beginning a new or intensifying your existing
- Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Mindfulness for Beginners. 2012.
- Bahrke MS, Morgan WP. Anxiety reduction following exercise and meditation. Cognitive Ther Res. 1978; 2(4): 323-333.