Mind-body workouts are physical activities that focus on mental and emotional well-being in addition to physical fitness. These workouts incorporate movement, breathwork, and mindfulness exercises to help create a mind-body connection. Presently, the most well-loved mind-body workouts globally include Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi. With the increasing popularity of mind-body workouts, we spoke to leading health and fitness experts for an in-depth guide on the benefits of these workouts. Here’s what they had to say.
6 health benefits of mind-body workouts
Mind-body workouts involve breathing techniques and meditation, which can help reduce stress and anxiety levels. “Mind-body workouts combine physical movement, breathing patterns, and mental focus, making them different from conventional exercises. Yoga is an example of a mind-body workout as it focuses on body postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana). Studies have shown these workouts improve physical and mental health, supporting brain function, enhancing cognition and learning, and relieving symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression. Including a 45-50 minutes yoga session in your daily routine can have several health benefits,” mentions Aman Puri, fitness expert and founder of Steadfast Nutrition.
Enhances Muscle Strength
Moreover, workouts such as strength training and running, also done mindfully, offer several health benefits. “An often overlooked aspect of strength training is the mind-muscle connection. The mind-muscle connection means deliberately contracting your muscles while focusing your thoughts on every single rep. Instead of letting your mind wander, you’ll be directly visualising and paying attention to exactly what your muscles are doing. The mind-muscle connection has been linked to an increase in muscular thickness, suggesting that it can help with hypertrophy as it boosts overall muscle activation. On top of that, staying focused on what you’re doing will keep you laser-focused on form, which is especially critical if you're lifting heavy weights often,” says certified nutrition coach Anaheez Patel.
Boosts Cognitive Function
Mind-body workouts incorporate focus and concentration that improve cognitive function and memory. “Yoga best aligns the mind into a calmer state from the word go. There is something called Working Memory (WM), which is responsible for holding and processing information in short intervals. And our state of mind, which is influenced by our thoughts, stress, mood, and physical activity, plays a key role in determining the quality of WM. The ancient practice of Yoga builds Working Memory and focus by keeping the mind in the present instead of letting it wander away. Also, controlled breathwork in Yoga helps improve memory, thought and language, making it a complete mind-body workout,” states Nikhil Kapur, health expert and co-founder of Atmantan Wellness Centre.
Supports Emotional Health
Studies suggest that mind-body workouts boost emotional well-being by fostering mindfulness, relaxation, and self-awareness. “Mind-body workouts are important from a neurophysiological level. They are especially significant in toning the vagus ‘wandering’ nerve, which goes from the brainstem to the gut. Information from the body is fed to the brain through this long nerve, and simulating or activating it has various long-term health benefits. Strong vagal nerve activation makes you less stressed and more empathetic, which is useful in dealing with life situations. Moreover, by regulating your stress response, you can train yourself on staying calm during and after situations of continuous stress at work or with your kids and partner,” adds Devayani Vijayan, functional wellness practitioner and founder of Peak Performers Club.
Helps Stay Fit
Mind-body workouts can help you stay fit by offering a comprehensive approach by connecting the body and mind. “Mindful movement is the foundation of injury-free training resulting in long-term benefits, whether it's flexibility through yoga, strength via weight-training, or endurance-based aerobic activities. The five components of fitness are muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and ideal body composition. Just one type of exercise can not result in the overall growth of your health. For optimal fitness, a sound workout schedule is necessary, which involves addressing all the components of fitness. A workout plan that does not include any one of these components of fitness is not efficient or effective,” remarks Vipul Sanadhya, health expert and founder of Win Everyday.
Reduces Chronic Pain
Finally, mind-body workouts can relieve chronic pain by promoting relaxation, improving posture, and minimising inflammation. These workouts address the physical and psychological reasons which contribute to chronic pain. However, it's advisable to seek help from a healthcare professional if you have chronic pain.