How Pairing Exercise and Meditation Can Improve Overall Heath

close up of hands and knees meditating
Exercise and meditation go hand in hand.

by Catherine Santino

When you're down in the dumps, a good sweat session at the gym can be a total mood booster! Remember, self-care consists of more than just physical health — it's about centering your mind as well.

Pairing exercise and meditation can produce a slew of benefits. While the two might be thought of as separate activities, putting them together can take your wellness to a whole new level. Consider, for instance, how much a clear and focused mind could help you persevere through a challenging workout!

The Benefits of Exercise and Meditation

Meditation is defined by Psychology Today as "the practice of turning one's attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase, known as a mantra."

Being in tune with your breath and body can enhance your workouts, and there is no shortage of recent research to support this fact. The Universal Journal of Psychology published a study examining how relaxation techniques can lead to improved athletic performance, reduced anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure, and increased concentration and self-confidence.

The results of the study showed that there is a positive relationship between meditation and sports performance as well as breathing techniques and sports performance. Incorporating meditation into your active lifestyle can not only improve your experience inside the gym, but it can lead to overall greater health.

Meditation and Confidence

Working out is as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Pushing yourself through a challenging run or trying a new workout requires a certain level of confidence and determination. Practicing meditation can help you get out of your head and see your potential more clearly.

"We all fall into this pattern of negative thought loops," mindfulness instructor Jeena Cho wrote in Forbes. "And perhaps one of the most powerful benefit of a regular meditation practice is, first, recognizing it and, second, gently shifting the mind away from it."

Practicing exercise and meditation together can give you the confidence you need to meet your goals. It can also drastically improve your mental state outside of the gym and may help relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety! A 2016 study in Translational Psychology was the first to assess the benefits of combining exercise and meditation, and the results showed a 40 percent decrease in depressive symptoms among participants.

How to Get Started With Meditation

Incorporating meditation into your gym routine doesn't have to be complicated, or even very time-consuming. Try downloading the Headspace app (which offers hundreds of guided meditations) and listening either on the bus or train as you make your way to the gym, just before getting on a machine, right after a great workout, or just before bed.

Even if you don't have the time or space for a full-on meditation session, taking a few deep, focused breaths before your workout can help get you in the right state of mind. So, whether you're looking to improve your physical health, mental health, or both, exercise and meditation just might be the answer!

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.