Exercise is good for the body and good for the mind as well. Numerous studies show how different forms of physical activity can benefit patients who have anxiety or depression. A recent research study looked at factors involved in getting people to move more and what, precisely, can help with staying motivated and sticking with an exercise program. As it turns out, a meditation and stress reduction program was just as valid as structured exercise programs in getting people to move more stay with their healthy choices.
Researchers at Iowa State University compared two “intervention programs” that are designed to motivate reluctant exercisers. The first was a mindfulness program that aimed at reducing stress as a way of getting participants to stick with an exercise regimen. The other was a program of structured classes that met regularly. There was a control group as well that had no interventions but were participants just beginning an exercise plan.
The researchers looked at each group over an eight-week period. While it wasn’t unexpected that the two groups who had interventions did better on becoming more active than the control group did, the results gained by those in the mindfulness group were surprising. Jacob Meyer, an ISU assistant professor of kinesiology, explained, “Structured exercise training is something as a field we have used for decades to improve physical activity and physical health. To see a similar effect on physical activity from an intervention that focuses on the way someone thinks or perceives the world, was completely unexpected." Meyer collaborated with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Mississippi Medical Center to study how best to motivate patients into getting ordinarily sedentary adults into exercising for at least 75 minutes per week. Life expectancy can be increased by almost two years with the right amount of regular exercise.
The two groups spent the same amount of time in classes for their approach, two and a half hours per week. Those in the mindfulness group learned breathing techniques, self-awareness, and meditation methods as well as stretching and movement. The exercise group spent their time in aerobics classes. Both groups were also told to do 20-45 minutes each day of what they learned in classes when they were at home. All of the participants were urged to continue their programs past the eight weeks, and while most did, there was some decline in colder months in the control group who did not have any training. The study period of 8 weeks was perhaps too short to expect a significant increase in exercise, but the group who studied mindfulness showed the least decline during the post study period. The video below talks about integrating mindfulness into a fitness routine, take a look.