5 Ways Meditation Makes Exercise More Effective
Meditation is a popular and effective mindfulness tool to decrease stress and anxiety. But did you know it can also enhance your workouts? If you’re searching for ways to maximize your exercise and fitness routine, you don’t have to turn to supplements or expensive protein shakes and exercise programs. Here’s how combining meditation and exercise can improve your results.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a mindfulness practice in which you clear your mind by sitting, breathing, and focusing on your breath. As you breathe, you allow your thoughts and emotions to pass by, acknowledging them without judgment.1
While you meditate, you also check in with your physical body, taking a moment to notice how each part of your body feels without actively trying to change anything.
Meditation allows you to become more aware of your thoughts and fully engage in the present moment. However, learning to meditate is a skill that takes time to master. Sometimes, when you meditate, your mind will wander, you’ll forget to focus on your breath, or you’ll feel uncomfortable. But those things are okay, and they’re completely normal!
To get better at meditating, practice regularly. It will get easier! And since there’s not one correct way to meditate, your practice may look different than someone else’s. Try not to get caught up in comparisons.
How does meditation help in exercise?
Regular meditation practice has many proven health benefits, including:2
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved symptoms of depression
- Reduced blood pressure
- Improved chronic pain
- Better sleep
- Improved symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
You can also reap several other benefits by blending meditation and exercise regularly.
1. You’ll have a more productive workout.
Meditation is an effective way to de-stress and clear your mind. Doing this before a workout can help you stay focused and driven as you complete your exercise routine. With improved focus, you’re likely to have a more productive workout and better long-term results.
Plus, your physical performance will improve when you’re relaxed and stress-free. By beginning any workout session with a short meditation, you can start with a clear state of mind, allowing you to hone in on each movement.
2. You’re more likely to achieve the fitness goals you’ve set.
When researchers looked at the effects of combining meditation and exercise, they discovered that combining the two produced enhanced cognitive function in the frontal lobe.3 This part of the brain controls things like setting goals, executing them, and planning tasks.
As a result, the study suggests that combining meditation and exercise is an effective way to improve your brain’s ability to set new goals and achieve them.
3. You’re less likely to get sick.
Battling illnesses can put a damper on your workout routine. Although you may be able to continue doing physical activities like running or biking while you’re sick, it’s not always recommended, and it can be difficult.
However, meditation can help! According to a 2012 Annals of Family Medicine study, regular meditation practice may also help you stay healthy and avoid respiratory illnesses.4 This can make sticking to a workout routine easier and improve your overall fitness and physical health.
4. You’ll have better mind/body awareness.
Meditation can also help you notice your physical body without judging its size, appearance, or strength. And as a result, you can grow a deeper appreciation for how amazing your body truly is, no matter what shape it’s in!
With better mind/body awareness, you can banish unhealthy mindsets about working out or fueling your body and begin caring for your body in more meaningful ways.
For instance, you might take a day to rest if you notice you’re feeling burnt out or physically exhausted, improving your physical performance in the long run. Or, you might fuel your body with healthier alternatives, which will better serve you when exercising.
5. You’ll feel and look younger.
If you want to stay strong and age gracefully, meditation can also help with that! Combining meditation and exercise can also balance growth hormone levels. These hormones are responsible for repairing and rebuilding your body’s cells, slowing down the natural signs of aging.5
When you meditate, your brain releases more growth hormones, which help your body produce younger-looking skin, strengthen your bones, and give you more energy.
How do you combine meditation and exercise?
Integrating meditation and exercise might feel weird initially, but it’s simpler than you think. There are no rules for what this looks like, and it can vary from person to person.
Here are three simple ways you can combine meditation and exercise:
- Meditate for 5 to 10 minutes to warm up before a workout or cool down afterward.
- Complete a 30-minute yoga or tai chi workout.
- Meditate between sets of exercises.
If you’re struggling to keep your mind clear while meditating, guided meditation can make it easier to start. Check YouTube for free guided meditation sessions online, or download a guided meditation app for help practicing.
Is it better to meditate or exercise first?
Meditating before or after your workout is equally effective, so it doesn’t matter how you do it. Do what works best for you.
Meditating before a workout will help you relax and de-stress before you get started. It can also help you focus and better control your movements throughout. However, meditating after a workout can reduce your stress hormone levels, reduce pain, and improve your recovery.
If you’re unsure which approach is best for you, try meditating before and after your workouts and do what feels right.
Is it possible to meditate while working out?
Yes, you can meditate while you work out, too! It might be more difficult for beginners to meditate while actively running, cycling, swimming, or doing some other type of exercise, but it’s possible.
- To meditate while you exercise, unplug from your favorite music or podcast. Listening to a podcast while running or working out is motivating but can be very distracting if you’re trying to meditate.
- You can also practice mindful breathing by continuously returning your attention to your breath. Even though there will be distractions (running past neighbors, rugged terrain while cycling, the TVs at the gym while you’re lifting, etc.), try to bring your attention and focus back to your breath.
- And finally, remember why you’re exercising in the first place. Despite any discomfort or exhaustion you may be feeling while exercising, remember why you’re making the time to move your body and commit to staying present with your body until you’ve finished.
- If you struggle with distractions while meditating during exercise, try cycling or running with Vingo indoors, where you have a bit more control over your environment. The app is free and it’s easy to get started with the equipment you already have.
When should I not meditate?
Although meditation and exercise can enhance your workout and help you deal with issues like anxiety and depression, if you try to meditate and don’t feel like it’s helping, stop. It’s okay not to meditate if you feel it’s not helpful. In those instances, finding other healthy ways to enhance your workout or cope with difficult emotions may be better.
Key Takeaways:Research studies indicate combining meditation and exercise can boost your physical performance, help you achieve your fitness goals, reduce illnesses, increase mind/body awareness, and encourage healthy aging. Test it out yourself by meditating for 5 to 10 minutes before or after your next workout. Or, try a 30-minute yoga or tai chi workout routine to reap the benefits.
- Meditation: What It Is, Benefits & Types. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17906-meditation
- Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need To Know. (n.d.). NCCIH. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-and-mindfulness-what-you-need-to-know
- Hawkes, T., Manselle, W., & Woollacott, M. (2014). Tai Chi and meditation-plus-exercise benefit neural substrates of executive function: a cross-sectional, controlled study. www.opensciences.org. Retrieved March 3, 2023, from https://opensciences.org/files/people/Marjorie-Woollacott/Hawkes-et-al-2014-J-Comp-Integr-Med-ERP-Medit-Tai-Chi.pdf
- Barrett, B. R., Hayney, M. S., Müller, D. J., Rakel, D., Ward, A., Obasi, C. N., Brown, R. L., Zhang, Z., Zgierska, A., Gern, J. E., West, R. K., Ewers, T., Barlow, S., Gassman, M., & Coe, C. L. (2012). Meditation or Exercise for Preventing Acute Respiratory Infection: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Annals of Family Medicine, 10(4), 337–346. https://doi.org/10.1370/afm.1376
- Chatterjee, S., & Mondal, S. (2014). Effect of Regular Yogic Training on Growth Hormone and Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate as an Endocrine Marker of Aging. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014, 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1155/2014/240581