When you think about maximizing the benefits you get from your workouts, chances are that adding mindfulness practices to your routine might not be on your list of techniques to try. But perhaps you should consider it!
Often thought of as separate areas of wellbeing, our physical and mental health may seem to be individual entities that don’t impact each other — but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
As a valuable tool for self-reflection and emotional centering, mindfulness offers plenty of potential benefits for your fitness routine, including improving satisfaction after a workout and strengthening your commitment to future healthy activity.
In this article, you’ll learn about some of the most recent and compelling research findings about mindfulness and physical health. Covering everything from how mindfulness can impact your physical wellbeing to how you can incorporate it into your existing routine, this is a great resource for anyone looking to get the most out of every workout.
Read on to find out how adding mindfulness to your exercise routine can help you tackle your most ambitious fitness goals!
What is mindfulness?
Before jumping into the many benefits of practicing mindfulness on a regular basis, it’s important to first understand what mindfulness is (and how you can achieve it).
Mindfulness is defined as a state of being that enables the participant to fully experience their current surroundings, uninhibited by internal thoughts, worries, or distractions. When you are attempting to practice mindfulness, you should strive to maintain a level of awareness of the activity you are participating in, doing your best to reduce any judgments of yourself or your environment.
That said, if you have heard the term “mindfulness,” you likely heard it in reference to meditation. While these terms are closely related, they are technically different — and understanding the nuances of each can help your mind-body practice thrive. Here are some definitions worth knowing as you begin to add mindfulness to your daily fitness routine:
- Mindfulness — As mentioned above, mindfulness is a mental state in which you are completely connected to the present moment. Mindfulness brings an enhanced awareness of your senses (taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight) as well as the location and movement of your physical body in space. Mindfulness can be achieved through mindfulness practices.
- Mindfulness practices — In order to achieve a state of mindfulness, you can participate in mindfulness practices. Commonly used mindfulness practices include meditation, mindful eating, breathing exercises, and more. A 2018 study concluded that even five minutes of mindfulness can be effective, as long as it’s part of a regular mindfulness practice.
- Meditation — Meditation is a mindfulness exercise you can use to enhance relaxation, become more attuned to the present, and reduce stress. There are many different types of meditation, ranging from mantra-based practices (in which a word or phrase is repeated to act as an anchor during an activity) to movement meditation, which involves using light exercises like yoga, tai chi, or walking to build a deeper connection with your body.
The benefits of regularly practicing mindfulness
As you can see, mindfulness is a complex subject to explore — and because there are so many different ways to practice mindfulness, you likely won’t have any difficulty finding an option that works well with your current lifestyle.
Even better, not only is mindfulness the perfect tool to add to any activity you’d like to be more present for, it also offers more advantages than just connecting you to the current moment.
Recently, more research studies are being conducted to better understand the impact of regular mindfulness practice. The results suggest that mindfulness can have a strikingly positive impact on your physical, mental, and emotional health. Below are just a few of the most commonly reported advantages to adding mindfulness to your day.
Mindfulness can improve your mental health
Mental health is likely the first area of health that you associate with mindfulness and meditation. If so, you’re correct to connect them!
Research has shown that mindfulness is linked to better overall mental health. In one comprehensive review study that assessed multiple studies whose participants were suffering from psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders, it was found that completing a mindfulness-based stress reduction program (MBSR) helped increase mental wellness.
The analysis discovered that participants who practiced mindfulness regularly through the program noticed improvements in their quality of life and coping skills during periods of stress, indicating that mindfulness can have a long-term positive impact on a person’s mental health.
Mindfulness is also associated with other mental health benefits, including upswings in short-term working memory, stress reduction, increased focus, and reduced rumination.
Mindfulness has physical health benefits
Along with its mental health benefits, research has found that achieving a state of mindfulness can elicit positive physical responses in the body. In one study of people living with chronic hypertension, it was found that completing two hours per week of mindfulness training for eight weeks resulted in a clinically significant reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings.
Other physical health benefits of mindfulness include chronic pain alleviation and higher sleep quality. Mindfulness has also been found to help with successful long-term weight loss and recovery from substance misuse disorders.
Mindfulness helps with motivation and long-term behavioral change
As an often forgotten component of overall wellness, mindfulness can have a positive impact on a person’s motivation and emotional capacity.
In a 2020 study, it was found that regularly practicing mindfulness assisted with sustaining long-term positive behavioral changes, improving attention control, and enhancing emotional regulation.
Because these benefits are notably advantageous for habit-building, adding mindfulness to your workout routine is an excellent way to amp up your motivation, feel more connected to your body, and stay on track with your fitness goals.
5 ways to add mindfulness to your next workout
Now that you understand the many health benefits of mindfulness, it’s time to explore how you can use mindfulness practices to get the most out of your workouts.
As one popular option for people looking to start their busy days on a strong note, pre-work exercises, such as swimming, walking, lifting weights, or fitness classes, are great opportunities to practice mindfulness.
Here are a few of our top tips for creating more enjoyable, effective, and mindful exercise sessions:
- Set an intention for your next workout — Before you begin your workout, it’s recommended that you set an intention for your sweat session. Whether the intention is something as simple as “try my best” or “remember to smile,” a simple and short intention can help to ground your workout and has been proven to enhance commitment and completion of regular physical exercise. So, when you notice yourself struggling or experience your mind wandering during your activity, remind yourself of your intention to focus on the current moment and get the most out of your workout.
- Practice visualization as you exercise — Visualization is an incredibly effective tool for enhancing mindfulness during physical activity, as it allows your brain to create impulses helpful for completing your desired outcome. Defined as the act of focusing on your movement and visualizing performing the physical task to the best of your ability, this mindfulness practice can help optimize your workout results.
- Breathe from your diaphragm — If you’ve ever taken a yoga or tai chi class, you’ve probably heard about the importance of timing your movements with your breath while breathing from your diaphragm (aka your belly!) Capable of positively impacting your autonomic nervous system to encourage increased emotional and psychological control, breathing from your diaphragm while you exercise can intensify relaxation and boost your enjoyment of physical activity.
- Create a comfortable workout environment — The space that you choose to work out in plays more of a role in your overall exercise efficacy than you may think — especially when you go outside! When you choose to exercise outdoors (by taking an outdoor class, hiking, or simply by doing a weight-lifting circuit in your backyard), you give your body the opportunity to attune to nature and your surroundings. This small but effective change is a simple way to reduce mental fatigue, lift your mood, and decrease your perception of your overall effort — so that you’re open to exercising for longer and with more intensity.
- Add mindfulness exercises like yoga or tai chi to your routine — If you really want to dive deep into mindfulness during your next workout, choosing to add yoga to the beginning or end of your routine can be incredibly effective. As a mind-body exercise capable of helping people remain more mindful during movement, practicing yoga has shown promising results related to reducing stress, supporting emotional regulation, and promoting healthier eating and exercise routines. So, whether you decide to join a yoga class or follow along with a YouTube video at home, adding even a short yoga session to your fitness session is a great way to get more out of your activity.
Putting it all together
As you can see, there are many total health benefits to practicing mindfulness on a regular basis. From increased emotional control and coping skills to lower blood pressure and reduced stress, mindfulness is an essential tool for improving overall wellness — which is why choosing to incorporate it into your workouts is a fantastic idea.
Whether you’re looking to stay more consistent in your fitness routine or want to use your workout as a time to build a stronger relationship between your mind and your body, mindfulness is the perfect tool for the job.
We wish you the best of luck with adding mindfulness to your next workout!