Meditation and Exercise – Great alone but better together
Are you living a fast and hectic lifestyle and find yourself with high blood pressure, stress, experiencing anxiety, constant demands and obligations pulling you in different directions, and struggling to maintain focus? Great news – just 20 minutes of meditation combined with 30-40 minutes of exercise can reduce anxious feelings and be the first step to building a peaceful and fulfilling life. Athletes, the army, and every-day people are adopting mindfulness meditation practices and exercise to reduce stress and anxiety (Richtel 2019). Even if you aren’t an elite athlete or soldier though, research over the last twenty years says that meditation and exercise is linked to reducing stress and anxiety, reducing depressive episodes, improved cognitive performance, having a positive self-image, and reducing negative thoughts. (Arora Jyoti 2018, Elisa H. Kozasa 2012, Julia C. Basso 2019, Rahil Rojiani 2017, Thomas J. Elkington 2017, Yi-Yuan Tang 2015).
(Julia C. Basso 2019)
Meditation is the practice of purposefully directing one’s mind and attention to being completely present in the moment and focusing solely on one particular sensation, like one’s own breathing (Rahil Rojiani 2017). A 2018 study found that just five minutes of “Om” chanting can produce a significant reduction in blood pressure and heart rate (Arora Jyoti 2018). What’s more, a 2019 study found that after only 8 weeks and just 13 minutes of guided meditation a day, subjects were found to have a reduction in negative moods, reduced stress, and increased capacity to pay attention and remember important information (Julia C. Basso 2019). For those keeping track, that’s a commitment of only 18 minutes a day to receive all the benefits of meditation – perfect for a before bedtime ritual, lunch break on a stressful day, or as soon as you get home from work and need to clear you mind.
While reducing stress is great, meditation has been shown to make you more productive through the day by increasing your ability to maintain and focus your attention. Meditation allows for neural pathways to strengthen and for the mind to focus and process incongruent tasks (Elisa H. Kozasa 2012). An example of an incongruent task would be like saying the color of the following five words and not the actual word: green, black, blue, green, white. Not as easy as it sounds right? In the study, non-meditators showed much more brain activity when attempting this task compared to meditators (Elisa H. Kozasa 2012). This might sound like a good thing for the non-meditators but it’s actually showing that the brain of a non-meditator is having to work much harder to accomplish the same task as the meditator. This indicates that the meditators had better sustained attention and impulse control over their non-meditation counterparts (Elisa H. Kozasa 2012).
Better ability to pay attention, impulse control, and reduced stress? Great, we’re convinced and we’re willing to dedicate 18 minutes of our day to meditate. So what about exercise? I think we all know that exercise is good for our bodies, but how can it help our mental health when paired with meditation? Multiple studies have shown that there is a positive link between exercise and reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression and preventing diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s (Petra Dolenc 2019). With a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise, psychological health and positive well-being increased by 23-48% compared to those that did not exercise (Thomas J. Elkington 2017). As well as increasing positive psychological well-being, exercise also reduced negative feelings like anxiety, depression, and stress related emotions – much like the benefits of meditation (Thomas J. Elkington 2017). Additionally, many studies have researched the impact of exercise on cognition. These studies found that exercise increases creativity, concentration, attention, and memory (Martin Rasmussen 2013). Further, exercise that involves mental engagement like balance, timing, strategy, or team-based activity give the greatest cognitive benefits, so sign up for that rec league or join one of our group fitness classes (Martin Rasmussen 2013). These positive cognitive effects of exercise have been found to be true for all ages from children, to adults, to seniors (Jennifer L. Etnier 1997).
TLDR: So what does this all mean and how do you get started? Meditation and exercise both contribute to mental health – reduced anxiety, stress, depressive episodes and increased cognitive performance, attention span, and positive thoughts. You can see these benefits by committing just 20 minutes a day to meditation and 40 minutes to exercise. MOOR Out of Life will be offering completely FREE classes on Calm and Connected Meditation on July 2nd and 16th at 4:45 - 5:45 at the MOOR offices at 600 W. Manchester Ave, #4, Los Angeles. In addition, we also offer free classes to train your core from 4:00 - 4:30 every Wednesday in August and a Dance Fitness course right after at 4:45 to 5:45. For more specialized paid classes, we offer great Group Fitness classes, Wellness Consultations, 30/30 Wellness Workouts, Group Wellness, and Meditation classes to get you started, help you maintain, or push you to the next level in your path to mental health and wellness. Use code CSAW on purchase! Mooroutoflife.com
Arora Jyoti, and Namrata Dubey. 2018. "Immediate Benefits of 'Om' Chanting on Blood Pressure and Pulse Rate in Uncomplicated Moderate Hypertensive Subjects." National Journal of Physiology, Pharmacy, and Pharmacology 1162-1165.
Elisa H. Kozasa, Joao R. Sato, Shirley S. Lacerda, Maria A.M. Barreiros, Joao Radvany, Tamara A. Russell, Liana G. Sanches, Luiz E.A.M. Mello, Edson Amaro Jr. 2012. "Meditation training increases brain efficiency in an attention task." NueroImage 745-749.
Jennifer L. Etnier, Walter Salazar, Daniel M. Ianders, Steven J. Petruzzelo, Myungwoo Han, and Priscilla Nowell. 1997. "The influence of physical fitness and exercise upon cognitive functioning: a meta-analysis." Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology 249-277.
Julia C. Basso, Alexandra McHale, Victoria Ende, Douglas J. Oberlin, and Wendy A. Suzuki. 2019. "Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators." Behavioral Brain Research 208-220.
Martin Rasmussen, and Karin Laumann. 2013. "The academic and psychological benefits of exercise in healthy children and adolescents." European Journal of Psychology of Education 945-962.
Petra Dolenc, and Mojca Petric. 2019. "Psychological benefits of exercise and physical activity in older adults." Annales Kinesiologiae 121-134.
Rahil Rojiani, Juan F. Santoyo, Hadley Rahrig, Harold D. Roth, and Willoughby B. Britton. 2017. "Women benefit more than men in response to college-based meditation training." Frontiers in Psychology.
Richtel, Matt. 2019. NY Times. April 5. Accessed May 11, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/05/health/military-mindfulness-training.html.
Thomas J. Elkington, Smantha Cassar, Andre R. Nelson, and Itamar Levinger. 2017. "Psychological responses to acute aerobic, resistance, or combined exercise in healthy and overweight individuals: a systematic review." Clinical Medicine Insights: Cardiology 1-23.
Yi-Yuan Tang, Britta K. Holzel, and Michael I. Posner. 2015. "The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation." Nature Reviews Neuroscience 213-225.