The idea of fitness always tends to be focused on the physical aspects of the body. How many miles can you run? How much weight can you lift? However, a key component to reaching your physical fitness goals is to equally prioritize mental fitness. This is where meditation comes into play. Mindfulness can support your mental health, reduce stress, and show some surprising benefits toward your exercise routine. And best of all? It’s free! Here are four reasons to bring meditation into your fitness routine. 

What Exactly is Meditation?

Meditation is frequently linked with yoga and while this is true, the practice has origins in many religions and spiritualities. Today, meditation has become a mainstream way of reconnecting the body and the mind and finding inner peace. Unlike other forms of exercise, which focus on technique and form, meditation is a continual practice of slowing down thoughts, breathing deeply, and bringing awareness to the present. There is no one right way to meditate. Additionally, meditation does not have to take place in a designated space like a quiet room or a yoga studio. In fact, one of the beauties of meditation and mindfulness is that it can be practiced just about anywhere. This can mean taking five-minute breaks from work or decompressing your mind as you wait in line instead of pulling out your phone. Whatever way you choose to meditate, the goal is to focus on awareness and being fully present. 

Combining Fitness and Meditation

There are ample studies that show the mental health benefits of exercise. From reducing stress to boosting your body’s release of “happy” chemicals like endorphins, even low-level fitness activities like daily walking can significantly improve your mental state. Of course, coupled with that are the health benefits such as a reduction in cholesterol, minimized risk of heart disease, and stronger bones. So what’s the science on meditation’s effect on exercise? The good news is that these two practices, exercise, and meditation, are strong on their own, but when you combine them you get a comprehensive fitness routine. 

  • Support Your Mental Health 

Stress, depression, and anxiety are all common mental health challenges that many people face in varying levels of severity. Mental health issues can impact your ability to work, socialize, and workout. Luckily, researchers are finally catching up to the impacts mindfulness and meditation can have on an individual. One study found that a combination of meditation and exercise could reduce depressive symptoms by up to 40 percent if completed twice a week for two months. In this study, subjects were asked to meditate for 30 minutes and workout for 30 minutes. That’s only a total of two hours each week dedicated to total fitness and the results are incredible! 

  • Improve Workout Performance 

If you’re looking to up your game, you might be surprised by how much taking a few minutes after each workout to reflect will benefit your routine. Many athletes also incorporate some form of meditation into their pre-workout routine as a way of achieving greater mental clarity and focus. A strong mind can help to build a strong body. Additionally, this can be a useful tool for those who are just beginning their fitness journey and need the extra mental support to push through a hard workout. 

  • Reduce Stress and Injury 

During a particularly intense session, such as high-intensity interval training (HIIT), stress can be a useful tool. It helps you stay on top of your game and move quickly, but once the workout is over, the benefits of stress quickly fade away. From complications with work, relationships, or money, there are plenty of ways people experience stress in their lives that is not healthy. This can lead to inflammation, fat storage, and a distracted mind, all of which are ingredients for an injury. 

Meditation works by activating a key part of your nervous system which calms the body, enabling the mind to make more logical decisions and focus for longer periods of time. On top of protecting you from injuries by fostering a stronger connection between the brain and the body, there’s plenty of research that demonstrates the healing powers of meditation from sports injuries to heart disease.

  • Acknowledge Your Physical Capabilities 

Another component that is often forgotten on the fitness journey is gratitude. For most people, we’re always chasing the next goal or accomplishment that pushes us further than we’ve ever been before. However, we rarely step back to appreciate not just how far we might have come, but what we’re able to accomplish today. Fitness goals are broad and diverse based on what an individual wants to accomplish and their unique physical abilities. What might be an incredible challenge for you will be a cakewalk for someone else and vice versa. Meditation gives you the space and time to put your health into perspective. 

How to Incorporate Meditation 

Whether you’re working toward strength, cardio, or weight loss goals, you can always find some room for a little bit of meditation. One of the best parts about meditation is that the practice is free and requires zero equipment. You can meditate anywhere you’d like, any time you’d like and the practice is what you make it. This could mean doing some deep breathing before a workout or taking twenty minutes to cool down after you exercise. You can also choose to create a meditation routine, scheduling it the same way you would your workout calendar. 

One key to establishing a successful meditation practice is to set a timer. Without a set time limit, your thoughts might be more inclined to wander. While the intention of meditation isn’t to erase your mind of thoughts completely, you should focus on letting thoughts drift by instead of fixating on them. This is another tool known as labeling. If you notice you’re beginning to think about all the documents you have to look through at work, simply label the thought as “work” and let it drift away. You can pick apart those anxieties at another time. Meditation should be a time dedicated to calming your mind and treating yourself with kindness. 

Meditation is just like any other skill that needs practice. At ViGOR FiTNESS, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve total mind-body fitness. Check out our blog and social media channels to learn more about creating a sustainable healthy lifestyle and find a supportive community!