While we do our best to get our blood flowing with exercise, it’s easy to feel like a hamster on a wheel while jogging in place on a treadmill or mindlessly following along in a fitness class. We may watch television to distract ourselves from a difficult workout or drown out our thoughts with loud music. Even so, it is assumed that we are getting the most out of our workouts as long as our bodies are going through the motions, right?
While this may be true to an extent, there is also plenty of evidence pointing to the benefits of incorporating mindfulness into our exercise routines. Staying present and in the moment allows us to be more in tune with our bodies thereby allowing us to not only avoid injury but also feel a better sense of strength and accomplishment.
In fact a new study, published recently in The Journal of Health Psychology, is one of the first of its kind to concentrate on mindfulness during exercise. The researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands wondered if staying mindful during a workout might be one of the factors that separated folks that stay interested in exercise long term from those who quit after a short period of time.
A group of volunteers were asked to fill out a scientifically validated questionnaire. It focused on the satisfaction they felt with their workout routine, along with their level of mindfulness throughout their exercise practice.
An article in The New York Times explains:
… mindfulness also played a pronounced role in making exercise feel satisfying, the data showed. People who reported being mindful during exercise also generally reported satisfaction with exercise.” The article goes onto say that, “There was little correlation, however, between the amount of mindfulness people reported and their exercise habits, leading the scientists to conclude that mindfulness affected exercise mostly indirectly, by altering satisfaction.”
This of course is all great, but how does one become mindful during exercise in order to gain such soaring levels of satisfaction?
An article written by exercise expert Paige Waehner, expands on a few ways to begin practicing a mindful exercise. Waehner’s advice includes, remembering that the purpose of working out is to feel better in our mind body and spirit. She goes onto suggest having a purpose beyond losing weight for each individual workout. It can be very specific such as burning a certain amount of calories or concentrating on strengthening a certain muscle group. Other mindful strategies include concentrating on your breath and ending the workout on a good note by giving yourself time to cool down while feeling a sense of pride about what you have accomplished.
Mindfulness During Exercise via About.com
To Jump-Start Your Exercise Routine, Stay Mindful via The NewYork Times