Physical exercise is known to have beneficial effects on general wellbeing and cardiovascular health. But did you know that exercising your body may also benefit your mind? A recent study suggests that exercise is effective in improving anxiety symptoms in people with a current diagnosis of anxiety and/ or stress-related disorders.
But what if exercise is not your thing and you always find an excuse why you “can’t” exercise? You may want to try a mindful approach. A study at the Washington State University looked at the effect of mindfulness on different aspects of exercise: perceived exertion, enjoyment and the emotional experience of a simple exercise of treadmill walking. Researchers found that when people approached the exercise with mindfulness, their focus, emotional involvement and enjoyment were higher than during their habitual routine and their perceived level of exertion lowered.
The next time you approach an exercise session, start with a series of deep breaths and mindful yawns. Yawning is the fastest way to turn off emotional centres in your brain and remove excessive neurological stress. When you start exercising, go extra slow. While doing the exercise, observe the sensation in your body and your emotional reactions to the exercise, without judgement. Pay attention to how the exertion feels when you go slowly and how the sensations change when you speed up. Try to stay in the present moment during the exercise and notice the subtle shifts in your physical impressions and your mood. Keep moving for a while and then pause as you focus your attention on the changes in your mental state. Repeat this several times with any exercise and you’ll train your brain to enjoy the exercise strain. By exercising mindfully, you’ll get more benefits and will be more likely to continue an exercise ritual.
Stubbs B, Vancampfort D, Rosenbaum S, et al. An examination of the anxiolytic effects of exercise for people with anxiety and stress-related disorders: A meta-analysis. Psychiatry Res. 2017;249:102‐108. doi:10.1016/j.psychres.2016.12.020
Cox, Anne E et al. “Mindfulness and Affective Responses to Treadmill Walking in Individuals with Low Intrinsic Motivation to Exercise.” International journal of exercise science vol. 11,5 609-624. 3 Jan. 2018
Teive HAG, Munhoz RP, Camargo CHF, Walusinski O. Yawning in neurology: a review. Arq Neuropsiquiatr. 2018;76(7):473‐480. doi:10.1590/0004-282X20180057