Mindfulness is placing your awareness in the present moment. Our bodies are always in the present moment, it’s just our minds that we need to re-focus. We work at our best when our mind and bodies are synchronised together, especially when exercising. This is practised in yoga, however, it can be done with any other types of exercises too. Even though you may think that mindfulness and exercise are at opposite ends, merging them together allows you to experience the present moment during your physical activity.
Research has found that promoting mindfulness-based training for physical activity has positive effects both psychologically and physiologically. Benefits include improved heart rate, depth of breathing and parasympathetic activity (calming the body).
How to be mindful and exercise at the same time:
- Set your goal – What is the aim of your exercise. Is it at a set time, a set number of reps, lengths or distance? Once we have a clear intention for our workout then we become more focused.
- Unplug – Be free from your phone or music, concentrating on you.
- Scan your body – Do you feel ok? Is there anywhere that hurts or somewhere that feels tight. You need to be mentally aware of these areas when exercising. If you’re not mentally and physically ready to exercise then take a break or stop.
- Focus on the present – When you begin exercising, bring your attention to your breathing. Use the inward and outward movement of your chest as your focus to be in present moment. You can also use other anchors of attention in a movement, for example, the up and down repetition of lifting a weight or your feet hitting the floor when running. Return to focus on this movement every time your mind wanders.
- Breathe through the hard parts – Focus and breathe through the barriers stopping you from reaching your goals. Hold for those extra few seconds or run that extra metre. Breathing through it will really help you to keep going.
- Be aware – Notice your environment by listening to the sounds surrounding you, feeling the temperature, feeling your feet pressing into the ground. Open awareness is another form of attention that you can practise when exercising.
- Appreciate yourself – Let go of comparing yourself to others if you are in a group and appreciate your endurance, speed or ability. Be kind to yourself and feel satisfied that you are exercising and have made the effort in the first place.
Cameron LJ. (2018). How to Meditate through Exercise. Available at: https://www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate-through-exercise/
Kennedy AB, Resnick PB. (2015). Mindfulness and Physical Activity. Available at: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1559827614564546