Meditation for Exercise: What Works Best?
To have a completely healthy body, you must also have a healthy mind. The mind and the body go hand-in-hand. There are things you can do regarding your mental health that can positively affect your physical well-being. Getting in some activity during the day helps you maintain a healthy body.
What if in addition to exercising your body, you add a practice that can exercise your mind? Mindful meditation is a great way to include this. Whether you meditate before, during, or after working out, there are many benefits for all.
Combining Meditation With Exercise
You can say that meditation is necessary for brain health and exercise keeps the body in shape. Meditation is an ancient practice that helps the mind and body work together. Over time, different types of meditation have been included in the lives of many people, but everything returns back to the mind.
People who battle with things like anxiety and depression may have close experiences with how the mind and body work together. When the mind is in a bad state, a person may start to experience symptoms like:
- Body aches and pains
- Sleep disturbances
- Stomach and digestive problems
- Changes in appetite and more
It’s great to find ways to maintain a healthy body, like walking, yoga, strength training, and even dancing. Depressive symptoms can be alleviated with those types of activities, in addition to mindfulness meditation.
What Does It Mean to Be Mindful?
Mindfulness meditation can be of great use to many people with mental health issues or experiencing high-stress levels. Mindfulness is the human ability to be fully aware of the present moment. For some people, being mindful may be difficult. A lot of things occur during the day that influences the mind. They may also focus on things that occurred in the past or things that have yet to happen.
When you practice meditation, you can take control of these thoughts, emotions, and how you react to certain situations. So how does this regular meditation practice work? Mindfulness meditation teaches you how to slow down negative thoughts by guiding you to focus on what you currently feel in the present moment. This helps calm your nerves and racing thoughts.
Instead of focusing on the negative emotions, you may feel throughout the day, mindfulness meditation incorporates breathing and positive affirmations so that you can shift your focus to the good. When practiced consistently, meditation can help you have more control over stressful situations you may face on any given day.
When to Meditate When Exercising?
You’re probably wondering when is the best time to include meditation in your exercise routine. The answer to that question can’t be simply given. The time you choose to combine exercise and meditation all depends on the type of benefits you are trying to get.
If you’re new to exercise and meditation, you may want to start off with something that is more manageable, like meditating before and after your workouts. It may be difficult for beginners to remain in a meditative state if they aren’t used to meditating and doing other things at the same time.
Here’s a breakdown of the times you can meditate and the benefits they come with:
Meditating Before Exercise
Not everyone has the liberty to extend the time they use for daily exercises. Many individuals run on a strict get-in-and-out schedule. It’s OK to not be in a rush when exercising. Taking time to center yourself before exercising carries a lot of benefits. Here are some of a few:
Many pro athletes meditate before games. This helps bring focus and can also enhance your performance. Meditation does this by clearing your mind of negative thoughts and doubt that you may feel before your choice of physical activity.
Improves the mind-body connection
As mentioned earlier, what your mind goes through can strongly affect your physical body. The mind-body connection is the link between a person’s thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, and physical health. Practicing meditation before exercising can help relax your body by clearing negative thoughts and helping you to focus on the workout you’re about to have instead.
Reduces symptoms caused by depression
While meditation and exercise on their own have benefits that can help reduce symptoms caused by depression, combining both of them can have even greater effects. Although both of these things impact different areas of the brain, putting the two together creates a more effective outcome.
Meditating During Exercise
If you’re an avid exercise lover, you may find yourself zoning out as you work out and not completely focusing on the exercise itself. If you want to be able to zone in during workouts, adding meditation during your exercise routine is a great way to start. Here are some of the benefits:
Increases motivation to work out
You’re not always going to feel like working out—it’s normal. Although regular exercise is a habit you should practice daily, there are times when you just won’t be up for it. Adding meditation to your exercise can motivate you to keep it up. A large portion of keeping up with healthy habits, like exercising, is a mind game. You have to discipline your mind to keep going, even when you don’t feel like it.
Meditation can help you do things like get to the finish line when running, finish all your reps when lifting weights, and of course, when practicing yoga.
Improves physical health
When you include mindfulness in your exercise, you increase your chances of being more physically healthy and fit. Some studies show that people who meditate while working out have better cardiovascular health than those who don’t. Body mass index (BMI) in people who meditate during exercise is also much lower because exercise and meditation both aid in weight loss.
As you exercise, the level of oxygen that your lungs receive becomes much less, leading to shortness of breath and heavy breathing. For the most part, this is normal while working out, but your endurance can be improved with exercise meditation. The focused breathing that meditation incorporates can help you during physical activity. This way, you have more stamina to do exercises for longer periods.
Meditating After Exercise
Even after exercising, there are still benefits of meditation that may be of use to you. After your workout routine, you’re encouraged to have some recovery time. What if you combine your recovery time with meditation? Here’s what it can do for you:
Without proper muscle recovery, muscle building can become very difficult. Giving your muscles rest and time to recover helps them grow stronger because they aren’t weakened by previous workouts. Post-workout meditation helps with releasing the chemicals in your muscles that are produced. Too many of these chemicals may cause you to experience unpleasant body aches, muscle spasms, or injuries.
Reduces cortisol levels
Cortisol is the main hormone that causes stress in the body. Cortisol usually increases during exercise because you’re using your muscles and putting your body under more stress than you do while resting. Practicing meditation can help reduce cortisol so that your body doesn’t remain tense throughout the day. This happens by triggering the parasympathetic nervous system. This part of your nervous system is responsible for relaxing your body after a stressful event. It helps counteract the sympathetic nervous system., which is responsible for helping your body determine danger.
Whenever the brain sees something as stressful, it begins to increase the heart rate and deliver blood to areas that it deems necessary while under stress. Meditation can reduce this by producing relaxing hormones that fight against the production of stressful ones.
Finding the perfect way to incorporate a meditation session into your day doesn’t have to be difficult. For people who have a more sedentary lifestyle, having a quick at-home workout can help loosen your muscles and give your body and mind what it needs to have more energy.
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