Meditation – How Good Is It For Improving Workouts?
In order to improve our health and make wiser lifestyle choices, many of us decide to exercise regularly, but it’s possible to gain even more benefits by combining physical activity with meditation.
If there was a way to be happier and protect your mind and body against depression naturally, effectively, and quickly, would you do it? What if we told you that a mind-body combination of meditation and exercise done just twice a week for two months could reduce depressive symptoms by up to 40 percent—even in people who don’t suffer from depression? Turns out, that’s all it takes.
How Meditation and Exercise go Hand in Hand
A mix of meditation and physical activity gives you the best of both worlds in terms of benefits. Meditation is an ancient practice in which an individual focuses his / her mind on a particular object, activity, or thought to achieve a state of mental clarity and emotional calm. In meditation, most people find it easier to concentrate on their breaths. Meditation balances the needs of your body and maximizes physical endurance. This makes it so you can get as much out of your workouts as possible.
Regular exercise is vital to well-being and good health. In order to stay healthy, our body has to move. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with obesity, pain in the joints and many other health problems. It is a great way to improve your mood, boost confidence, get more energy and protect your body from negative health outcomes. As you can see, both meditation and exercise have a lot to offer; and combining them is a great way to get even more benefits.
An example is how aerobic exercise can significantly increase the number of cells produced in the hippocampus, effectively benefitting brain structure, function, and overall mental health. And meditation, or more specifically, focused-attention meditation challenges the brain because it requires a significant amount of mental effort to perform; in turn, each session represents a new learning opportunity.
Why Meditation and Exercise Work Well
The reason exercise and meditation work so well together, is because each one has a different but equally profound effect on the brain. Laboratory research has shown that exercise helps with the process of neurogenesis, or the development of new brain cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is that part of the brain associated with memory, learning and emotions; many studies have found that individuals suffering from depression have a smaller hippocampus than those who are not depressed.
Exercise also helps to increase the oxygen and blood flow, providing more of those biochemical boosts that make your brain happy.
In contrast, meditation activates our parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming our central nervous system down. It affects the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for analyzing thought, judging and controlling emotions. Brain studies of people meditating showed better signaling in the prefrontal cortex and a greater ability to concentrate and focus.
It is theorized that while the exercise helps create new brain cells, it is because of meditation that they remain alive and functioning. Together this changes our ability to stay present, calm and focused, which plays an important role in the fight against depression and anxiety.
You want to do as much as possible when you start working out, without getting tired too quickly. The goal is to get the most out of your workout but your endurance needs to improve in order to achieve it. Meditation is one of the best natural ways of boosting stamina. Why? For what? The ancient practice allows the mind to go deep into a changed state of consciousness to create an environment necessary for mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
Helps with Depression
Unfortunately there are a slew of health problems that are linked to loneliness. It’s is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, even death. Not so cheery. Luckily mindfulness meditation can help.
Millions of people in the US and worldwide suffer from depression indicated by a persistent feeling of sadness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, and other mental and physical symptoms. A combined approach of exercising and meditating can help you overcome depression. This makes it yet another reason to include both in your lifestyle.
Meditation promotes mindfulness and healthy lifestyle choices, and it’s useful to make it an inevitable part of your lifestyle. Remember, you don’t have to meditate for hours. For beginners, even 10 minutes of meditation is enough to relax their mind. As you’re getting used to the idea of meditation, you can try to do it for up to 30 minutes. It all comes down to your needs.
Researchers also found that those who meditate had blood with elevated levels of pro-inflammatory gene expression in their immune cells. In short, there was less inflammation, which is good because inflammation in the body can cause cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Meditate Before or After Exercise?
Combining meditation and exercise is easy; you can either meditate prior to or after your training. There is no “one size fits all” rule here. In short, you can choose the approach that you find more convenient.
Pre-workout meditation lets you relax and stretch your muscles. At the same time, when you work out, you can improve focus and control which are much needed. On the other hand, meditating after a workout reduces the levels of cortisol that tend to elevate when you’re exercising. Meditating post-workout also improves recovery and decreases pain.
While no research has compared which is better, meditating at the beginning of an exercise practice or meditating at the end, what is evident is that meditation can make exercise more powerful and vice versa.
Combining exercise and meditation can help build muscle. Toned, perfectly defined, and larger muscles are the goal most people want through workouts to reach. They’ve probably never thought it could be beneficial to add meditation to the mix.
How does meditation contribute? Well, it lowers stress, improves stamina and balances the hormones you need for muscle building including GH (growth hormone). In one study, men who were meditating produced more growth hormone than their counterparts who practiced other techniques of relaxation. Combine these two approaches to quicken muscle growth.
The body needs to recover after every workout, no matter how intensive it may be. With that, meditation can help, and thus reduce the risk of injury. This ancient practice allows you to stay calm while exhibiting positive effects on the nervous system and improves the ability to ignore distractions. For recovery all of these factors are important.
Meditation allows you to train your mind just as your body gets trained by physical activity. It has a number of health benefits which improve the quality of your life. Meditation also helps you recover from injury by changing the perception of trauma or event circumstances, and allows the mind to deal more effectively with pain. It teaches you not to focus on pain, and its intensity is reduced. Proper recovery is vital to better outcomes for every active individual.
You’ve had those nights. You slide in to bed, close your eyes, exhausted, but before you can fall asleep your brain starts buzzing with thoughts of unfinished projects and stressful situations. Or you’ve had many of those nights and suffer from one of the most insufferable sleep disorders: insomnia. Well, before you turn to pills, try meditation. (But of course, you should always talk to your doctor first and foremost.)
In a study, which appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine, 25 middle-aged and older adults with sleeping problems completed a mindfulness awareness program that taught them to focus on in-the-moment experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Another group of 25 completed a sleep education class that taught them ways to improve their sleep habits. Both groups met six times, once a week for two-hour sessions.
In the end, the mindfulness group experienced less insomnia, fatigue, and depression.
Improve your Immune System
People preach the virtues of meditation forever, but who wants to concentrate on their breath or body when they have a runny nose or ailing bones? Even those who are being sold on the practice of mindfulness may be inclined to skip sessions when they feel under the weather. That would be wrong, however..
The truth is, there’s no better time to medicate than when you’re not feeling well. Because pain is both a physical and psychological sensation, the right kind of meditation can help you acquaint yourself with your discomfort and perhaps get through it without relying on medication, according to Harvard Medical School’s Ellen Slawsby, who works with patients in pain at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
Slawsby says certain practices can teach you to contend with pain and even signal your brain to override the message that you are uncomfortable. She notes, however that you have to choose your personalized, correct method. There are various meditation techniques. This includesdeep breathing exercises to using imagery and music to calm down, writing journals, and gentle yoga, among others, that can help you feel refreshed even when your body isn’t at its best.
Mindfulness and meditation is good for your body, but how exactly do we go about training this?
Pace yourself. Pause.
We’re almost hard-wired to keep ourselves busy. Many are taught from a young age that they have to always busy themselves to be successful. That also holds true for our minds.
Human beings have about 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts a day, and about 70 percent of those thoughts are focused negatively. It makes sense that these negative thoughts fuel our performance day to day, even in fitness. Therefore it is vital to allow mental pause periods before we start a workout.
Try to set intention before starting your workout. What is your purpose for this particular workout? Notice how you feel as you walk or lift a weight on the treadmill. Think about how each of your moving parts moves as you perform each workout step, and how you can improve your shape to take full advantage of the move.
Practice balance- not only physically but also mentally.
Carefulness isn’t about having zero thoughts. It’s about letting thoughts come and go without judgment, and focusing on the present. It is about awareness building. If we can address and accept the negative thoughts we have about ourselves, we can shift our belief system to embrace our true abilities.
Studies have demonstrated that mental practice can be practically as effective as physical training. At the end of your workout, you have to picture yourself and feel accomplished and powerful. Knowing this, you realize that it is important to start visualizing yourself attaining fitness goals. When we tap into our goal-supporting feelings, we create beneficial conditions to make the goal a reality.
Enjoy yourself, above all else.
When we work out, we often think it has to be miserable, because it’s hard and it shouldn’t be enjoyed working out. It is truly sad that the idea of fitness being tedious once was common. The truth is, there are so many ways of “working out”
Fitness can embed so many wonderful aspects of life. You’ll find that you really enjoy being active and fit when you align with friendship, love and your passions. Awareness and joy come naturally at this moment.
Take your friends on hikes. Try surfing, rowing, or climbing mountains/rocks. Go to a dance class at your fitness gym. Make it as you want it to. Through this, beyond what you thought your body was capable of, we find human power. Every single human body is incredible and resilient. Have fun with it, and see the extent of just what you can do with it!
Don’t sweat the specifics.
Though some schools of thought maintain strong opinions on bodily position during meditation, the truth is you can do it while sitting, standing, lying down, or walking. Sitting is often dubbed the best position to meditate. It keeps the body and mind attentive versus the relaxation that occurs when you lay down. However, you should always choose a comfortable position based on your own needs.