How being present during our exercise movements can drastically change our mind and body

Mindfulness has enjoyed much attention of late. There is a good reason for that. Defined as paying attention to what is happening in the moment, on purpose and without judgment, mindfulness yields myriad benefits, but can it improve exercise? Absolutely! Here’s how:


Focus for better performance

Being mindful during exercise can help us better monitor form and reduce the likelihood of injury. Another benefit of paying attention, rather than tuning out, is the opportunity to rest the mind. Combining exercise and mindfulness provides a much-needed respite from racing thoughts and stress-filled days. Noticing what is happening with your body as it moves through your routine can give you a sense of peace and accomplishment. After all, exercise isn’t simply something to slog through, it is your chance to enjoy the power of your own body and tackle new challenges. Mindfulness lets you enjoy the path to better health.


Improves the mind-body connection

Most of us have not had a lot of instruction or support for managing uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. When we are bored, restless, angry or sad, we have learned to distract ourselves rather than watch and manage the feelings as they arise and move through our bodies. Being mindful during exercise is one way to start connecting with what is happening in our bodies.  We may even learn to better tolerate uncomfortable feelings. For example, when anxious the heart may beat faster, and the breath may become faster. The body has a similar experience with exercise. When we notice this and make the connection, we may experience less fear and or anxiety about being anxious. We may come to see that we can stand our biological responses to anxiety and that they will pass. 


Tips for exercising mindfully

The next time you exercise simply pay attention to your inner and outer world. Just notice what is happening without labeling it good or bad. Simply be with whatever you see and feel. For example:


  • What is the temperature like? Do you feel the sun or a breeze?
  • How does your level of exertion feel in your body? 
  • What do you notice about the feel of the weights or the way your feet make contact with the belt or the treadmill?
  • What do you see and hear around you?


Stay in the moment

Each time your mind circles back to your workday or your to-do list, gently guide it back to the present moment. Don’t beat yourself up when your mind wanders. Congratulate yourself for noticing and return your attention to exercise. Exercising mindfully can improve your performance, reduce injury and help you manage stress. See what you notice when you give it a try.