Mindfulness and Fitness

The practice of mindfulness is all the rage these days, helping to improve focus, productivity, and overall mental health. But could something associated with meditation and tranquility also give a boost to workouts and other rigorous activity?

According to the New York Times, the benefits of mindfulness can extend to just about every healthy endeavor, helping to boost performance in more ways than one. Consider a recent Dutch study cited in the article:

In essence, the scientists were trying to determine how much their volunteers exercised, how satisfied they were with that exercise, how mindful they were during exercise, and how those variables affected each other.

It turned out, unsurprisingly, that the people who reported being most satisfied with exercise were also the people who exercised the most, and vice versa.

But 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 message is that mindfulness may amplify satisfaction, because one is satisfied when positive experiences with physical activity become prominent,” says Kalliopi-Eleni Tsafou, a Marie Curie Research Fellow at Utrecht University who led the study. “For those experiences to be noticed,” she continued, “one must become aware of them. We would argue that this can be achieved by being mindful.”

In other words, if you focus on the small but important details: your body’s motions – the environment in which you are working out, your breathing – you gain a better appreciate of what you are doing, and with that derive more pleasure and thus motivation.

This helps explain why some people take to exercise better than others. They make fitness a lifestyle, and genuinely enjoy getting up early in the morning for a jog, or pushing through that daunting weight set. You will never find an athlete or fitness buff who doesn’t love what they do.

Of course, mindfulness takes time and practice to master, but that is why being patient and making healthiness a long-term, continual go is so vital. It may not be easy at first, but with enough attention on the important but neglected aspects of exercise, you will better find the joys and benefits that will keep you coming for more – to the benefit of your mind, body, and spirit.

As someone who is trying to boost his mental and physical health, I definitely see the merit of this approach. I often have difficulty sticking to workout regimens longer than a week or so, and at this point I am all out of ideas besides just training my mind to overcome a lifetime of sedentary habits (I only got into exercise and active living about three or four years ago).

What are your thoughts?

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